Kaieteur News – The issue of consultations for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) does not arise. Commissions of Inquiry are fact-finding bodies. There is therefore no need for any consultation in establishing a fact-finding investigation into the General and Regional Elections of 2020.
What will be the objective of having consultations? And how can the Opposition which stands accused of attempting to benefit from the rigging of the elections be part of any consultations about the elections. This is like asking an accused person to pick his own jury.
The APNU+AFC has never demanded that a COI be held into the elections. So why are they so suddenly interested in consultations on the COI for the 2020 general and regional elections?
One person within the ranks of the Opposition party has made it clear that the truth can only be known through an election petition and not through a COI. Another has said that the establishment of the COI is an attempt to thwart the elections petition.
An election petition however is concerned with the validity of the election. The CCJ noted that via an election petition, the High Court can declare that the number of valid votes cast for a list of candidate differs from the number of votes upon which seats in the National Assembly were allocated and can also order fresh elections in whole or in part.
The government, however, cannot be blamed for the fate of the election petitions. It was not the government, which failed to properly serve notice on one of the respondents to the election petition.
A COI goes much further than an election petition. A COI can investigate issues beyond the validity of votes, including identifying persons who may have been culpable in thwarting the democratic will of the people. Perhaps, it is this potential aspect of the COI, which has triggered fears within the Opposition.
The hosting of the COI does not prejudice the election petition case, which is presently before the CCJ. A fact-finding investigation cannot invalidate or validate the elections. The Opposition therefore should not fear that the COI will validate the elections results.
In relation to the election petition, the CCJ will determine whether the hearing of the election petition can proceed. This is strictly a legal matter. In the meantime, the holding of a COI does not in any way thwart any future hearing of the election petition case. Indeed, the findings of the COI may be used by the Opposition to bolster its case in any election petition.
The holding of the COI also allows the Opposition an opportunity to provide the public with evidence that first, as it claimed, its Statements of Poll establish that it won the elections. It was a member of the AFC who said that the Recount process would have established that the Coalition won the elections. It did the opposite. The APNU+AFC can use the COI to make the case that it won the elections.
The COI will also provide the Opposition with the chance to provide the evidence that the dead and migrated voted. The COI provides a much better forum for its witnesses to show that there were massive irregularities in the elections.
If the PPP/C can be blamed for anything, it is its prevarication in launching this COI. The President himself during his inauguration address promised a forensic probe into the elections.
A COI allows the Opposition far more scope for presenting its case, than a forensic probe. The Opposition therefore should not be complaining. But everyone knows the real reasons why the Opposition is likely to not want a COI.
The Opposition will continue to harp about an election petition. It will do so while conveniently disregarding its own failures to properly bring such a petition before the High Court.
Recently, there was an attempt to have GECOM conduct a review of the elections. But those bringing this matter before GECOM failed to recall that this issue of a review was ventilated during legal arguments before the CCJ. The CCJ had said then that neither GECOM nor the Court of Appeal could trespass on the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court to hear an election petition. The CCJ had said that the Chairperson of GECOM was right to note that GECOM lacks the legislative authority and machinery to adjudicate on elections’ irregularities.
The COI now provides an avenue for a fact-finding investigation into the elections, including the so-called irregularities. But the Opposition will most likely find an excuse not to take up this offer.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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