– Performers discharging duties until further notice
CHARIPERSON Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh has sent Chief Returning Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, on his accumulated annual leave, pending investigations into alleged electoral fraud, and completion case in Guyana Courts.
There have been growing calls for Lowenfield and other GECOM officials to be eliminated because of their alleged unlawful acts during the five-month election interval, following polling day on March 2, 2020.
GECOM senior officials, including Lowenfield, and District Four Returning Officer (Demerara-Mahaica), Clairmont Mingo, are before the courts on charges of misconduct in public office.
As reported, those also charged with offenses of electoral fraud and misconduct in public office are: Chairman of the People’s National Congress (PNCR) Reform, Volda Lawrence; Opposition activist, Carol Joseph; Deputy Chief Election Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers; CEO clerks Michelle Miller and Denise Bob-Cummings; Shefern Elections Officer February; and Information Technology Officer, Enrique Livan.
They are all accused of inflating the results of Region Four, Guyana’s largest polling district, to give the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU + AFC) coalition a majority victory in the March 2 polls, when in fact the People’s Front Party / Civic (PPP / C) had won 15,000 more votes.
The ongoing investigations and court issues prompted Justice Singh to send Lowenfield on vacation.
“I was sent on an accrued vacation a while ago; I sent him since they were conducting investigations, ”the GECOM Chairman told the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday, adding that the CEO had 141 days of accrued leave.
Justice Singh confirmed that Lowenfield had been written to and asked to apply for his absence, and that he had complied with the request. With the CEO still on vacation, Myers has taken on Lowenfield’s duties, and is currently tasked with helping shape the Commission’s 2021 Budget, and preparing for the Local Government Elections (LGE) forthcoming.
Although the DCEO does not have all the powers of the CEO, it will perform most of the duties.
“He got into his shoes, so he was given a responsibility allowance to complete the task… Remember, we have the ongoing registration exercise, which we have to do in relation to our readiness for LGE, so he will lead the process until that time, ”Justice Singh said, adding:“ It’s not a one-man process, so the commissioners will ignore everything. ”
When asked why Myers, who is also in court, was not sent on holiday, the chairman said: “We can’t send everyone home at the moment; we have no one else, and she’s the only one there … You have to have someone to do the job, and lead the process, and she’s from the secretariat. “
Further discussions on LGE and the role of Myers will be discussed when the Commission meets on Tuesday.
Although GECOM is moving forward with its work, there have been clear and persistent calls for people to be immediately removed from the election machinery.
Responding to these calls on Saturday, Justice Singh told the Guyana Chronicle: “We have an election petition pending, and we have people being charged in court … We’re going to let that go let it go first, and let the court follow its course. You can’t just jump up like that; we look at legality in everything. ”
Either way, it is for the whole Commission to make any administrative change, as explained by the chair, and not just her.
In explaining this further, Justice Singh said: “That’s for the Commission, and not me; the Commission will decide those questions; I can’t decide on them. It is not a one man Commission; the whole Commission who would know what they want, and decide on the way forward. ”
However, this issue has not yet been raised at Commission level, but the chairman said that such a topic would require serious discussion and discussion.
“We must follow the law; things may look slow, but not that they are slow; we follow the law … I don’t know what they want us to do; we can’t jump like that, ”said Justice Singh. “It’s not that we’re going to hold back our people and not do it anyway … wherever the ax falls, we have to work with it,” he added.
And while this issue is far from second to none, the chairman reiterated that the petition must be remembered by the Commission, and the charges against individuals attached to the elections body.
On August 31, 2020, the APNU + AFC coalition, through its lawyer, Roysdale Forde, SC, filed election petitions on behalf of Claudette Thorne, while on September 17, Attorney-in-law Mayo Robertson filed documents on Heston Bostwick, who wants the High Court to determine the legality of the elections, and the consequences that led to the declaration and allocation of seats in the National Assembly.
Since then, stakeholders have claimed that this petition cannot be used as a means of delaying or delaying GECOM’s willingness to hold an election.
And, while Justice Singh is clear that GECOM will continue to follow Guyana’s laws, he said the Commission is doing everything possible to prepare for the Local Government Elections.