New CoI gets seven months to probe 2020 elections; focus on Reg. 4, GECOM officials

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The commissioners who will lead an inquiry into the events of the 2020 regional and general elections were sworn-in on Tuesday and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has directed that their findings and recommendations be presented within seven months.

Based on the Terms of Reference for the elections Commission of Inquiry (CoI), published in the Official Gazette, the Commissioners shall inquire into the circumstances, events and procedures before, during and after the 2020 elections in Guyana.

While the Commissioners have been asked to probe the elections generally, President Ali identified specific areas that warrant examination.

The events surrounding the tabulation and public declaration of results in District Four by the region’s Returning Officer and other election officials are a matter of concern.

The Commissioners were also asked to investigate whether any attempts were made to “obstruct, frustrate, subvert and prevent the counting, ascertainment and tabulation of votes pulled and a declaration of the true results of Electoral District No. 4…”

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, who have since been fired but worked on the March 2020 elections, are facing charges of fraud related to those elections

This District was particularly contentious during the March 2020 elections as the then Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo declared unverified results for the region, claiming that the APNU+AFC Coalition received 136,458 votes and the PPP received 77,329 votes.

The results were starkly different from the votes tallied by the People’s Progressive Party from Statements of Poll which it made public. Those statements showed the PPP with 80, 344 votes and the APNU+AFC 114,345.

Additionally, specific focus shall be directed towards any attempts that may have been made to “obstruct, frustrate, subvert and prevent a decision of the Guyana Elections Commission made on the 14th day of March 2020, to conduct a national recount of the votes polled…”

And finally, the Commissioners have been asked to specifically examine the conduct of the Chief Elections Officer, other Election Officers and others.

Since last year, the former Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield; his deputy, Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer Mingo, were charged with the offence of conspiracy to defraud electors during the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.

Their contracts with GECOM have also been terminated.

Upon the completion of their work over the seven months, the Commissioners have also been tasked with making recommendations for the improvement of GECOM. In doing so, it is expected that GECOM should be better able to discharge its function “in a manner which is impartial, fair and compliant with the Constitution and relevant legislation”.

Other recommendations deemed appropriate can be made.

The Commissioners on the elections CoI are Justice of the Appeal (retired) of Turks and Caicos, Stanley John; former Chancellor of the Judiciary (Guyana), Carl Singh; High Court Judge (Belize) and former Justice of Appeal (ag) in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Godfrey P. Smith.

Justice John is the chair of the Commission.

The work of the CoI is expected to commence when the Chairman decides, and the Commission will establish and regulate its own procedures operating under Guyana’s law.

The inquiry should be held in public with reservation to exclude any person(s) deemed fit

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