Coalition against live stream of recount, wants GECOM to restrict use of cellphones
Political parties, except APNU+AFC, which contested the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections have proposed to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that the recount process is live-streamed to the public.
APNU+AFC supports an earlier decision by GECOM for this not to happen.
What is more, APNU+AFC also wants GECOM to restrict the use of cellphones at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) where the recount will take place.
David Patterson, who represented the coalition at a meeting with Chairman of GECOM Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh and other political parties, told reporters that the party fully supports GECOM’s decision not to live stream the process.
He explained that the suggestion for cell phones not to be used during the process is premised solely on protecting the employees who are part of the recount.
He said there should be no live streaming of GECOM staff without their permission.
“I don’t think you would like me to come into your job without your permission to live stream you…I don’t want anybody coming into my office to live stream me without my permission or knowledge,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he supports GECOM’s decision to provide updates to the media “periodically.”
In response to suggestions made by other political parties for GECOM to recount each region one at a time, Patterson said, “that doesn’t make sense. By the time you get to Region Four, we will be probably in day 35.”
He said GECOM’s work plan of counting Regions 1 to 4 simultaneously is “the most systematic way of doing it.”
Patterson said he was under the impression that Saturday’s meeting with GECOM at the ACCC was to announce a date for the recount but instead the meeting dealt with issues GECOM would have resolved already.
He said the Coalition wants a smooth recount process and enquired from GECOM about security, noting that the APNU+AFC does not want a reoccurrence of what took place at the Region Four Returning Officer’s Headquarters in Georgetown.
Patterson said the Coalition wants a clear idea when the recount will go ahead since they have to train their agents.
Meanwhile, Chairman of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) Timothy Jonas is adamant that live streaming the process is necessary for transparency.
“At the end of the day, whether you’re happy with the result or you’re not happy with the result, I think we will all sit more comfortably if we saw the result and know that it happened fairly.
“It was proposed by all of the parties, APNU did not agree. APNU suggested that there should not be a live stream, in fact, APNU suggested that there be control of cell-phone use but that intermittent report should be made to the media,” Jonas said.
He added, “You have fraud and you have mistakes, you have errors and you have misconduct in secret when people can’t see. As soon as you expose it to light, people become much more careful.”
Jonas believes that the simultaneous counting of ballots from four regions will lead to confusion and will result in a lack of record and chain of custody regarding the ballots.
The political parties, except APNU+AFC, also asked the GECOM Chairman for the Secretariat to release all Statements of Poll (SOPs) so that comparison can be made at the end of the recount.
Executive Member of the People’s Progressive Party Anil Nandlall said the party is not satisfied that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield will be the one to resolve disputes that may arise during the recount.
A request was also made by the PPP for GECOM to grant permission for private security at the recount site while the parties want to accompany the ballot boxes to the recount site.
When asked if the PPP is prepared to accept the results if there is no live stream, Nandlall said, “it depends on what happens. We will have to see…if we feel the process is fraudulent, if the process has been compromised, then we will have to cross that bridge when we reach it.”
GECOM is expected to address the concerns and requests made by the political parties at a statutory meeting later Saturday.
It is also expected that once a date is decided, the order for the recount will be gazetted on Monday.
The three-member CARICOM team is already here for the process which is expected to take 25 days with ten recount stations.