Lowenfield’s attempt to block production of SOPs, SORs ‘meritless’ – Ramdhani
Darshan Ramdani, the attorney that has filed an application to the High Court seeking the release of copies of the Statements of Poll (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) from the 2020 general and regional elections on Monday said efforts by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to prevent the release of the documents is meritless.
Ramdani is representing Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie and the Director of Police Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali Hack; they say the documents are needed to support criminal charges filed against Lowenfield and several others, including the Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers.
Up against arguments by Lowenfield’s attorney, Nigel Hughes, that the CEO has sole lawful custody of the documents and can only release the documents in the context of an election petition, Ramdani said the legal custody concept in the Representation of the People’s Act which clothes Lowenfield does not apply in this case because the matter is now criminal.
He said had the documents not been in the possession of the High Court, the Magistrates Court could have simply issued a warrant and have the documents seized.
He has asked Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George to dismiss the application by Lowenfield to be joined as a respondent, a matter that she will rule on come May 27, 2021.
The Attorney-General Chambers, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Registrar of the High Court have all been named as respondents in the fixed date application.
Ramdani said it is important that copies of the documents be released so that the criminal proceedings can be fair. Failing to provide copies would mean that the Court may have to hear from thousands of Returning Officers of prepared the SOPs instead.
The DPP and the Top Cop have also posited that the documents are needed to support several ongoing court cases in the Magistrates’ Court related to electoral fraud.
The Police Commissioner and the DPP want the Chief Justice to grant an Order, instructing the Registrar of the High Court, Sueanna Lovell, to make photocopies of the SOPs and SORs in her possession.
The Registrar is also being asked to certify that it is the true copies of the originals.
There are a total of 2, 339 SOPs and another 2, 339 SORs. It was the Chief Justice who, in a January 2021 ruling, ordered that the SOPs and SORs be handed over to the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice made the order to allow for the safekeeping of the documents which were expected to support arguments in an elections petition case. That petition has since been dismissed by the Chief Justice with at least one appeal filed.
Among those currently before the court are Lowenfield, Myers and the Returning Officer for District Four Clairmont Mingo.
They are joined on several charges by the Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Volda Lawrence and other party members. Having only served one term in office, the APNU+AFC Coalition lost the elections and claimed widespread voter fraud at the polls but refused to release their copies of the SOPs to prove its claim that it had won the elections.
The GECOM SOPs are key to settling the issues that arose after the March 2 general and regional elections.