With building rented and staff hired, public hearings in election COI to start next month


Public oral hearings for the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the March 2020 elections will commence in the first week of November, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has confirmed.

In mid-September, the CoI was officially appointed to probe the events of the general and regional elections and since then a building has been rented and furnished and staff hired.

The building is the one rented back in 2011 on Middle Street, Georgetown to house the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court. The entire bottom flat of the building will serve as the seat of the Commission. Nandlall said the premises is also fully furnished and fit for purpose.

“Those premises are rented and fully furnished and equipped to accommodate both commissioners and secretariat… and furnished for the hearing of evidence, to accommodate lawyers, members of the public, witnesses, the press and other interested parties,” Nandlall explained in a telephone interview on Friday.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C(Photo: DPI/September 13, 2022)

Additionally, the AG said the government has purchased computers, printers, voice and video recording equipment and other devices to allow for verbatim transcripts.

Also, the secretariat has been set up as part of preparatory work for the commencement of public oral hearings. This includes the hiring of a secretary, an administrator, clerks, and other secretarial and technical support staff.

Counsels to the Commission have also been appointed.

Nandlall explained that the Commissioners, the majority foreigners, will be operating both in Guyana and from abroad using the zoom platform.

“Once the hearing starts early in the month of November it is expected to go into December until all relevant witnesses are permitted to give testimony and cross-examined.

“A notice will be published in the newspapers inviting witnesses to make contact with the Commission for the purpose of taking statements,” Nandlall further explained.

The Commission has six months to assess the evidence and write its report which will be handed over to President Irfaan Ali. In addition to investigating the events of the five-month protracted elections, the CoI will also investigate the weaknesses in Guyana’s electoral systems and produce recommendations to fix the system.

The Chairman of the CoI Retired Justice of Appeal of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Stanley John (centre), Former Attorney General, High Court Judge and Acting Justice of Appeal in the Eastern Caribbean, Godfrey P. Smith (left) and former Chancellor of the Judiciary (Guyana), Carl Singh (Photo: News Room/ September 13, 2022)

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 were appointed as Commissioners to the presidential commission.

Justice John is the chair of the Commission.

Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr S. Y. Quraishi, is yet to be sworn in.

Key figures from the APNU+AFC Coalition along with senior election officials are before the courts on electoral fraud-related charges.

The then APNU+AFC coalition government is accused of being in consort with former Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and others at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to fraudulently change the outcome of the elections in favour of the David Granger-led government.

A recount confirmed that the PPP won the elections and Dr Irfaan Ali was sworn in as president on August 2, 2020, five months after the elections were held.

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