Foreign observers were cursed at, told to get out of Guyana – Elections Inquiry hears
Former Executive of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) Johnathan Yearwood on Monday took the stand at the Commission of Inquiry into the March 02, 2020 elections where he provided personal details on attempts to derail the District Four tabulation and verification process.
Included in his testimony were recounts of verbal threats by an APNU+AFC agent who he identified as Carol Smith-Joseph.
Yearwood said Joseph threatened to kick and spit on local observers while telling diplomats from the United States, Canada, Europe and the United Kingdom to “get the f**k out of Guyana.”
Specifically, Yearwood said Smith-Joseph told Attorney Pauline Chase from the Guyana Bar Association that she would stomp her in her face and told Kit Nacimento from the Private Sector Commission that she would spit in his face.
On hearing this, the Heads of Mission left the room and met with Smith-Joseph’s rage in the process.
Yearwood testified that the tabulation process was constantly interrupted as suspicions and objections later led to the derailing of the process.
He recalled that on March 04, 2020, at about 18:00hrs, the tabulation process was moving smoothly but was paused when the two GECOM staffers, one visibly pregnant, complained of being hungry and tired.
That was allowed but things never returned to normalcy.
Hours later, party agents and observers were told that the tabulation process would be stopped but loud objections resulted in a commitment that the process will continue but first, one of the almost 100 Deputy Returning Officers (DRO) would have to be located to facilitate the process.
Yearwood said Keith Lowenfield, as Chief Elections Officer at the time, committed to finding two Guyana Election Commission staffers to continue the process and he did.
Just after midnight, Lowenfield returned hope to the system.
Among the two persons, Lowenfield brought was Enrique Livan, who was accused previously of attempting to change figures already tabulated.
He was not a DRO.
Claims from Yearwood against Livan were the same made by previous witnesses under oath.
With Livan’s involvement, persons lost trust in the process and suspicion and objections from party agents fell on deaf ears when complaints were made, Yearwood testified.
He said the tabulation process continued with Livan and his support staff entering figures that did not correspond with the figures that party agents had.
“We got annoyed because earlier everything was going ok and now we are getting large amounts of mistakes,” Yearwood recalled.
Yearwood provided two pictures to the CoI, one he claimed to have taken when the objections became ferocious with Livan and another when the process was restarted after Livan was confronted on his attempts to change figures.
The second picture was of figures purporting to show the votes cast in South Georgetown although the tabulation and verification process had not been so far along.
Although the process was interrupted and incomplete, Yearwood recalled two attempts by Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to make a declaration of the results.
After being shouted down by party agents and subsequent involvement of the police, Yearwood also recalled how medical personnel and even a close friend of GECOM Chairman Justice (retired) Claudette Singh was prevented from getting to her as heavily armed police turned away these people while standing guard at the door to her office.
The tabulation and verification process would restart days later on March 12, 2020, following the intervention of the Court and a ruling by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George.
But even when the process restarted, it was more of the same.
This time, Mingo was heading the process himself and, according to Yearwood, it was not a tabulation and verification process since Mingo had already done his tabulation and just wanted them to go over it.
When people objected to this on several occasions, it was at this point that Joseph-Smith became vocal and made her threats. Mingo, Yearwood said, became flustered and was unresponsive.
No progress was made and on the following day, March 13, 2020, the tabulation and verification process was moved to a shed in the yard of GECOM’s Kingston, Georgetown office.
Here, a GECOM staff was calling figures, again that did not correspond and at a fast rate.
The piece of cloth used as a projector screen provided little visibility for observers and clashes erupted again between party agents, observers and GECOM officials.
Yearwood and Smith-Joseph got physical and he was arrested.
The weeks’ delay in completing the verification and tabulation for District Four was only salvaged when a decision was taken to allow a total recount of all the ballots cast in the elections.