‘Real fear’ GECOM Chair would be harmed – Shuman recounts for Elections COI

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There was “real fear” among politicians, foreign and local observers and Heads of several diplomatic missions that the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), former Justice Claudette Singh, would have been harmed before a declaration of the results of the March 02, 2020 elections.

Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party Lenox Shuman recounted before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into those elections on Tuesday an incident days after the polls where Justice Singh was reportedly “held captive” in a room at the Region Four command center.

Shuman who now holds the position of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly recounted that it was March 05, 2020 when pandemonium broke out at the Hadfield and High Streets location.

Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party Lenox Shuman at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) (Photo: News Room/ November 8, 2022)

It was after attempts by Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to make incorrect declarations.

“We had a real fear that harm would come to the GECOM Chair,” Shuman said as he recounted the early maneuvers by several key GECOM officials to change the outcome of the elections and hand victory instead to the APNU+AFC Coalition.

He was cautioned by Counsel, Trinidadian Senior Counsel Sophia Chote, about elaborating on his feelings and suspicions but despite her warnings which were echoed by Chairman of the CoI, Justice of the Appeal (retired) of Turks and Caicos Stanley John, Shuman persisted.

“After the suspicions that she is being held captive… I personally feared some harm may come to the Chair of GECOM,” he said.

Shuman said he attempted, along with Josh Kanhai of the New Movement – a new party contesting those elections – to get to the GEOCM Chair.

In his attempts to communicate explicitly the implication of such an outcome, Shuman reasoned had the GECOM Chairman been harmed, then “there would be no declarations of the results, the government (APNU+AFC) would sit in breach of certain Articles of the Constitution and there would have to be a re-run of the entire elections.”

Those possible outcomes drove Shuman’s actions to verify that the GECOM Chair was safe.

Politician Josh Kanhai (Photo: News Room/ November 8, 2022)

More details on those efforts were offered by Kanhai when he took the stand at the COI on Monday.

In his testimony, Kanhai said in light of what happened earlier that day and the days before, he sensed something was “amiss.”

The GECOM Chair was seen before Mingo attempted to make his false declaration but not after. She was in the building, supposedly in a room locked from the inside and guarded by heavily armed policemen.
Kanhai said a policeman who he identified, as Inspector Narine, arrived and although he told the police officers that the Chairwoman had called him and told him that she wasn’t feeling well, they didn’t allow him to see her.

An ambulance also arrived and went up to the room with EMTs who were also not allowed to enter.

A barricade on the lower flat was subsequently breached by curious onlookers and Kanhai said he went up to the room.

Once there, he noticed that a door had all the locks missing and it was secured. “That was where it became very interesting… the locks were intact but the handles were all broken off.”

He started to “push” and “kick” the door.

“…I was thinking in my head if something is wrong with her or something should be wrong with her, how long this process would be derailed.

“The last kick, the door broke loose, I got into that room. I saw there was a room within that room… I went into that room. When I got into that room I saw Madam Chair sitting on that Couch with Miss Roxanne Myers seated next to her. There were like 12 men in that room,” he recalled.

“She (GECOM Chair) appeared very flustered. She looked very pale. She didn’t seem well,” he added.

Before they could ascertain the woman’s safety, they were dragged out of the room by police officers, questioned, taken to the Brickdam Police Station and placed on bail but were never charged.

Justice Singh never responded to these claims which were previously ventilated but in a statement in August 2020, she described running the March 02 elections and the period of uncertainty after as the toughest job of her career.

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