Plans to derail 2020 electoral process detailed as Inquiry continues

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Firsthand accounts of the plans to derail the 2020 general and regional elections continue to be detailed as the Commission of Inquiry continues public hearings.

On Thursday, Sasenarine Singh, a supernumerary agent for the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) during the elections took the stand to give his account of the events that transpired.

He spoke of how Clairmont Mingo, the Returning Officer for Region Four in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional elections, had attempted to declare the results for his region without the verification process to reconcile the Statements of Polls (SOPs) for the electoral district being completed.

The Commission also heard how the legal process to verify the SOPs was deviated from when pre-prepared spreadsheets were introduced to reconcile the SOPs that political parties had in their possession but displayed numbers that were inconsistent with those on the SOPs

The orthodox process was for the SOPs delivered to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by Returning Officers to be verified against those held by stakeholders.

Representatives of political parties and observer missions at each polling station on Election Day could have received a copy of the SOP for that station after a tabulation at the close of the poll. In addition, the SoP had to attached to the building at the polling station.

Mingo attempted to declare the results at the Ashmin’s Building at Hadfield and High Streets, Georgetown on March 5, 2020, which did not reflect the tally from the SoPs stakeholders had.

“When he came into the room, everyone was quiet at that point in time, and he said that I will now be declaring the results for District Number Four,” Singh said.

“After he said that statement, he was talking but you couldn’t hear him because the room was extremely loud at that point in time,” he added.

At the time when Mingo attempted to do so, the verification process for the East Coast and North Georgetown had not yet commenced while south Georgetown and East Bank were incomplete, Singh noted.

Important to note, the day prior to Mingo’s declaration, he was taken to the hospital after complaining of feeling unwell. After this the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield informed that he will be replaced by two Deputy Returning Officers (DROs).

Singh informed the COI that the DROs were equipped with pre-prepared spreadsheets that replaced the SOPs GECOM was using to reconcile their numbers with stakeholders’ numbers.

Singh testified that Lowenfield told the stakeholders that in the interest of delivering the results to the nation in a timely manner, it was found to be more efficient to use the spreadsheet, Singh noted.

“I remember him using that word particularly, ‘efficient … he said it’s more administratively efficient to use this spreadsheet to report to the nation,” Singh said.

Singh noted that copies of the spreadsheets were not distributed nor did the CEO inform who prepared the spreadsheets or the source used to input the data on the spreadsheets.

The DROs were also from the East Bank district and were tabulating for that district; however, the South Georgetown district, which was started the day prior, was left incomplete.

Singh said that he had protested that there were 65 SOPs from South Georgetown remaining to the verified, but Deputy Chief Election Officer (DECO) Roxane Myers had insisted it was only three and asked for a list of the 65, which he provided.

He noted that despite protests, the spreadsheets were used and Lowenfield promised that if there were any discrepancies he will investigate it.

As DROs tabulated the East Bank district, Singh said that 17 out of 21 of the numbers from the spreadsheet were inconsistent with the numbers on the SOPs held by stakeholders.

“The party that had the biggest casualty was the PPP/C. They were deflating everybody’s numbers except the APNU+AFC,” Singh said, noting that at this point there were protests to halt using the spreadsheets and return to the original method of using the SOPs.

Singh noted that three SOPs which were in the possession of GECOM were also used to fact-check the spreadsheet, all of which established that there were discrepancies with the spreadsheet.

The process then stopped, lawyers present at the Ashmin’s building confronted Lowenfield and stated that the process must return to the original verification process to which he agreed.

“He basically said we are going to revert back to the original process that was started at the inception of the verification process – which was comparing GECOM’s original SOP with the copy of the SOP that was distributed to the stakeholders,” Singh testified.

The process was then halted and from then to when Mingo appeared, no reconciliation had taken place; yet, Mingo had attempted to declare the results, the Commission heard.

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