Kaieteur News- It is perhaps unsurprising that when the Chief Justice yesterday dismissed the attempt by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to bar the release of the Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs) from last year’s General and Regional Elections, there was a resounding silence in some previously cacophonous quarters.
Lowenfield’s most recent legal gambit had two things in common with his previous machinations last year – outrageous audacity and shameless desperation. What it does not have in common with them however, is the tremendous weight of an incumbent administration behind it. Whereas last year, around this time, any number of APNU+AFC government ministers, mid-level shills and contortionist fifth columnists would have been parroting talking points condemning the CJ’s decision as somehow injurious to democracy and an infringement upon Lowenfield’s unfettered right to suppress the SoPs, the decision yesterday was met with complete silence.
Instead, as is their right and in keeping with their public duty, the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, sent out a furious e-mail lamenting the Government’s reintroduction of the CSME Common External Tariff (CET) on soap in keeping with a COTED decision, while the Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, sent out a release complaining that the Government had not held Parliament for 85 days. In brief, when it comes to the damning and prescient issue of the Statements of Poll, last year there was virtually open collusion – this year it is a thinly disguised attempt at distraction and misdirection.
And yet, the issue of the SoPs and the SoRs and what they signify remains central to the issue of good governance in general and political credibility in particular, especially if the political opposition wants to be taken seriously on any issue, from rope to, well, soap.
Before expanding on why this is so, some clarity should be given on what Statements of Poll are. When Guyanese go to vote at individual polling stations, a documentation of the votes – the Statement of Poll – from each polling station is posted outside for public view. Additionally, each participating party that has an agent at the polling station gets a copy of the SoP for that station. The large parties have agents at each polling station and these agents transmit the numbers to a central location so that the parties can have a picture of the national outcome even before GECOM makes an official declaration using the same numbers.
In 2011, after that year’s election, Granger’s APNU staged a protest demanding the SoPs from GECOM be made public, and making a commitment by his party to do the same to challenge any possible attempt to subvert the elections outcome by the then incumbent PPP/C administration. In May of 2015, days after the elections that gained him the Presidency, Granger said that the SoPs were public documents and “We will be meeting this morning and will release fully our tabulations of Statements of Poll… this is already public knowledge… it shows we have won.”
In contrast, in 2020, after the March 2 elections, not only did Granger disappear from public view, but so did his apparent belief in the fact that SoPs were in fact public documents. In May of 2020, the PNC Leader’s now would-be successor, Aubrey Norton, put forward the newly minted Granger Doctrine on SoPs. Asked why it is that the APNU+AFC was simultaneously claiming victory according to Clairmont Mingo’s rigged Region Four figures but not showing its own SoPs in support, Norton had this to say: “When a party has its Statements of Poll, it is for its use. And it has to decide strategically and tactically when it releases it… And we have no apologies for it.” The AFC’s David Patterson would himself testify to having been privy to Coalition SoPs showing “a win is a win” while but deciding to hold back the SoPs, oleaginous as ever, Granger himself, in an interview with a foreign media entity, said that he – strangely, considering his stance in 2011 and 2015 – did not see the SoPs himself but a spreadsheet tabulated from them which showed a coalition win. To this day, the Coalition of course has presented no evidence of their SoPs despite two of their agents – Volda Lawrence and Carol Smith-Joseph – having signed off on two separate Region Four declarations on the basis that APNU+AFC’s SoPs were in concert with Mingo’s fraud. The tune changed soon after – when the SoRs from Region Four began to match the SoPs displayed by the PPP/C and smaller parties – to the wild conspiracy that the votes, previously said to be valid and purportedly showing them a victory, now being flawed with “massive discrepancies,” a tune Lowenfield gave exact accompaniment to when he sought to discard tens of thousands of votes to give Granger a victory.
Lowenfield’s latest attempt to keep the official SoPs from the public view cannot therefore be seen in isolation, but as part of the grand machinery of deceit and desperation that has emanated out of the political machinery housed in Congress Place, and which leadership has its hand on the wheel of the morally corroded gears and wheels that were last fully greased and running at tilt during the Burnham era.
The Chief Justice, as she has been doing at least for the past two years, since the No Confidence Vote, has delivered a simple, but sound and elegant judicial decision, in response to repeated attempts by a far-reaching, if incompetent and impotent, conspiracy to subvert the will of the people and the laws that govern them. This latest decision on the SoPs – solid and steely – represents what is the last nail in the coffin of a demented and corrupt idea, which is that a small group of people, led by someone with what is increasingly clear as debilitating delusions of grandeur and severe cognitive issues, can leverage the arms of the state to perpetuate themselves in power.
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