Aug 03, 2020 News Comments Off on Irfaan Ali sworn in as President, Mark Phillips as PM
…5 months after E-Day
· Granger to take “anomalies” to election petition
· Gov’t Commissioners walk out of GECOM meeting
· Jagdeo commits to talks on governance model; appointed Vice President
· Ali makes several other Cabinet appointments
By Shikema Dey and Mikaila Prince
Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali was yesterday declared the ninth Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and sworn into office five exhausting months after the Guyanese electorate ventured to the polls to exercise their democratic franchise. The event has finally brought an end to the ‘mother of all elections’.
The historic declaration was made by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh mere minutes after the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, executed his statutory duties and handed to the seven-member Commission, his final report reflecting the results of the National Recount.
The day was, however, not met without controversy, as the three Commissioners appointed by the former coalition government, walked out of a meeting that was held to address the way forward following the unanimous ruling of the Appeal Court last Friday in the Misenga Jones vs GECOM et al litigation.
Just an hour after the meeting was convened, Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman gave journalists an account of what ensued. The APNU+AFC Commissioners expressed that they distanced themselves from the declaration made by the Chairman, on the premise that the Election Day process was heavily tainted, and that any declaration emerging from those results would be unlawful. They have held this view despite clear rulings by the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) all pointing to the need for a declaration of the credible results of the CARICOM-certified national vote recount.
Further to the foregoing, Alexander told the media that an idea that the way forward should be left in the hands of the major parties’ leaders, Bharrat Jagdeo and David Granger, was presented at the meeting. He said that the Chair attempted to facilitate discussions between the two leaders but Jagdeo remained adamant in his stance not to engage in any discussions “until a declaration”.
Shortly after the aforementioned interaction with Alexander, Granger gave the nation his first indication that he was ready to concede an electoral loss. Granger stated that “irregularities which have been uncovered during the recount process cannot be accepted and will form the grounds for an election petition.” The former President noted that he is open to talks with Jagdeo, but stated that he also recognized that the Commission has a legal obligation to declare a winner as adjudicated by the Courts.
REPORT & DECLARATION
After the GECOM meeting was convened again, the CEO, Keith Lowenfield wasted no time submitting his final report to the Commission. In the cover letter however, the CEO claimed that the results did not reflect “the true will of the electors.”
Lowenfield specifically said “In accordance with Article 177(2)(b), it is worth restating that Order 60 of 2020 revealed that the numerical count of the ballots cast for each list of candidates does not reflect the true will of the electors.”
He added that the evidence with respect to voter impersonation has been verified by the relevant authorities “by way of immigration records and deceased reports.” It should be noted that these claims were debunked in extensive and verifiable reports by Kaieteur News. No concrete evidence was provided, leaving the claims unsubstantiated.
Notwithstanding, Lowenfield complied with the July 11 directives of the Chair and presented the accurate report pursuant to Section 96 of the Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA).
Those results placed the win of the General and Regional Elections with the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) with 233,336 valid votes, while A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) trailed behind with 217,920 valid votes, and the tripartite Joinder of A New And United Guyana (ANUG), The Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TMN) attained 5,214 valid votes. The votes give those paties 33, 31 and one seat respectively in the National Assembly.
GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward sent out a concise message to the GECOM Media WhatsApp group stating “Mohamed Ifraan Ali declared President by GECOM Chairperson”.
That declaration was deemed historic, as the years before, the GECOM Chair would call a press conference and while the nation tuned in, a declaration would be made. Justice Singh put all systems in place to allow for the smooth transition of power with a letter dispatched to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards immediately requesting that arrangements be made to facilitate the swearing in of the new President.
Her position did not receive support from the three government Commissioners who walked out of the meeting and issued a joint statement saying “We are therefore distancing ourselves from any Declaration other than a non-declaration and fresh elections.”
RESPECTING THE DECLARATION
Former President David Granger subsequently acknowledged that the new President was sworn in and reiterated his previous rhetoric that he would abide by “any declaration” made by the GECOM Chair.
The President in his statement said “I have never altered this position and I do now acknowledge the ‘declaration’.”
Further, Granger maintained that the report presented by the CEO contained “significant anomalies and irregularities” and that the “flawed report” was something his party could not endorse.
“The APNU+AFC Coalition will challenge the declared results lawfully, peacefully and purposefully. The Coalition asks its members, supporters and friends – who have been patient throughout our campaign and a prolonged legal process in our Courts – to continue to conduct themselves in a lawful and peaceful manner,” Granger added.
SAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY – HARMON
The APNU+AFC’s Campaign Manager, Joseph Harmon, also issued a statement mirroring what his party leader said. He, however, termed it “a sad day for Democracy, Rule of Law, Sovereignty and Independence”.
Despite this, Harmon welcomed the party’s position as the Opposition, stating that they will have to do everything to ensure respect for Guyana’s territorial integrity and oppose through all means possible any attempt to use Guyana’s territory and/or assets as a staging ground to destabilize neighbouring states.
The coalition had accused the international community, which stood unanimously behind the recount results, of using Guyana to destabilize Venezuela.
“We will continue to demand justice and equality for Guyanese…,” Harmon said.
Irfaan Ali sworn in as Guyana’s ninth President
Roughly two hours after the declaration was announced by the GECOM Chair, members of the media, executives and supporters of the PPP/C, along with members of the diplomatic community, gathered at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) for the swearing in of Irfaan Ali as President.
Not many, as expected, attended the ceremony, especially considering how suddenly it was called. Notwithstanding, those who were present were able to witness the historical swearing in of Guyana’s ninth Executive President.
In his inaugural remarks, President Ali expressed his anticipation to rebrand the country, as he assured listeners that he will uphold the oath of office, and work in the best interest of not just his supporters, but of all people of Guyana.
The President expressed that there is only one future, and it is one that requires every Guyanese to play a part in ensuring that the country only improves for the generations to come.
“We are in this together”, he said “We are not separated by class, ethnicity, religion or political persuasion. We are united in the true Guyanese spirit.”
In his celebration of democracy, President Ali also sought to show his unwavering appreciation to Guyana’s regional and international partners, political parties and members of the Guyanese community, who committed and cemented their services to the country in protecting its democracy.
With this he expressed, “Guyana is better because of your efforts. Guyanese will have a brighter future because of your efforts.”
In a brief question and answer segment with the press, Ali was asked to say how he will manage Guyana’s fledgling oil industry. The President said that he would work to ensure that the nation’s patrimony is enjoyed by and benefits all people.
The newly installed President indicated that there is much work to be done and emphasized the urgency of such. Against this backdrop, President Ali, yesterday, made his first four appointments to his Cabinet; Mark Phillips as his Prime Minister; General Secretary of the PPP/C Bharrat Jagdeo as Vice President; Anil Nandlall as his Attorney General and Gail Texeira as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance.
The President has committed to naming the rest of his Cabinet later this week, and addressing the main vision of the party for the next five years.
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