Lowenfield, Mingo & Myers involved in ‘shockingly brazen attempts’ to derail & corrupt 2020 elections – CoI concludes

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Vishani@newsroom.gy

In clear terms, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections stated that former Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield, his deputy, Roxanne Myers and the District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo were involved in efforts to derail and corrupt the elections.

After three months of hearings that featured firsthand accounts of what transpired, the report was officially presented to President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Wednesday.

Based on the findings of that report, the Commission believes that sufficient, credible evidence was gathered during the hearings that wrapped up in February.

Chairman of the CoI, Justice of the Appeal (retired) of Turks and Caicos Stanley John

And the Commission offered firm conclusions.

“In summary, our inquiry reveals that there were, in fact, shockingly brazen attempts by Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Election Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo to derail and corrupt the statutorily prescribed procedure for the counting, ascertaining and tabulation of votes of the March 2nd election, as well as the true declaration of the results of that election and that they did so – to put it in unvarnished language of the ordinary man- for the purpose of stealing the election,” the report, seen by the News Room, stated.

Ranks of the Tactical Service Unit (TSU) of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were also implicated in wrongdoings.

As such, the Commission recommended that urgent action be taken to improve the functions of both bodies.

“…We hope that this report will help to bring closure to a sad and shameful chapter in the electoral history of Guyana in which the integrity of and trust in the electoral system of Guyana was undermined and temporarily overthrown by the shenanigans of election officials at the highest level of the system,” the report stated too.

Aside from these striking statements, key findings linked to certain notable occurrences were presented.

GECOM’s involvement

It was found that there was a “conscious and deliberate – even brazen – effort” to violate the provisions of Section 84(1) of the Representation of the People’s Act, Guyana’s main electoral law. This section of the law deals with the counting of votes polled.

It was also noted that senior GECOM officials abandoned “all need for neutrality and impartiality” in the aftermath of the elections, demonstrating a bias for a competing political party be it showing an open connection with the party and, by their efforts, sought a desired result for the party.

The use of a spreadsheet

Though there was an approved method for the tabulation of votes cast for each political party, including the comparative examination of Statements of Poll (SOPs), it was found that Lowenfield approved the use of a spreadsheet that was found to have information “substantially inconsistent” with the SOPs of party agents.

Appearing before the Commission, was former Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and the District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo (Photo: January 6, 2023)

And so, the Commission determined that the CEO, by his overall conduct, opened himself up to criticism that the spreadsheet was introduced for ulterior motives and not efficiency. As GECOM CEO, it was emphasised that Lowenfield should have known what the approved methodology was to ascertain and tabulate votes cast. Therefore, by promoting and insisting upon the use of the spreadsheet, he acted unlawfully.

Mingo’s declaration at Ashmin’s building

The report also noted that Mingo either knew or should have known that the tabulation of the votes for District Four (his district) had not been completed when he made his declaration at Ashmin’s building (the GECOM District Four Command Centre) on March 5, 2020.

It was also stated that Myers should have been aware of the procedures required before such a declaration and should have recognised that Mingo’s declaration would be unlawful. The Commission, however, said she merely looked on.

“From the totality of the evidence surrounding the RO’s declaration, there appears to be such collusion and collaboration between senior GECOM officials as to likely amount to a conspiracy to make what was undoubtedly a premature and unlawful declaration of falsified results which showed the APNU/AFC party as the winner of electoral district No. 4.

“This was the ultimate goal of the CEO, the DCEO and the RO,” the report noted.

Lowenfield disenfranchising voters

As it relates to the tabulation of the votes cast, which would be used to determine the winner of the March 2020 elections, it was determined that Lowenfield was disenfranchising voters.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali receives the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the 2020 elections. (Photo: News Room/ April 26, 2023).

“The CEO unilaterally engaged in an exercise of scrutinising the votes alleged to be invalid by the APNU/AFC and determined that of the 460, 362 votes cast for the PPP, 275,092 were not valid, thereby disenfranchising 275,092 electors. The effect of the CEO’s unilateral nullification of votes was that the APNU/AFC ended up with 125,010 votes and the PPP, 56, 627 votes,” the CoI report noted.

Not only that but even when Guyana’s apex court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), made clear pronouncements on his actions, the former CEO persisted in basing his report to GECOM on the declarations of the 10 Returning Officers, including Mingo’s condemned declarations.

“The conduct and actions of CEO Lowenfield, in relation to the discharge of his statutory duties prescribed by sections 96 and 97 of the ROPA, were a brazen attempt to prevent GECOM declaring the true results of the elections of 2nd March, 2020. His conduct was – to borrow the words of former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Head of the OAS Observer Mission to Guyana – a transparent attempt to alter the results of an election.

“As the Chief Election Officer of Guyana, his conduct dealt a deep, pernicious body blow to the integrity of Guyana’s electoral system and cherished democratic values and must justly and forcefully be condemned as the ultimate betrayal of trust reposed in the highest election official in the land by the people of Guyana,” the report further stated.

The Commission was chaired by Justice of the Appeal (retired) of Turks and Caicos Stanley John. He was supported in his duties by former Chancellor of the Judiciary (Guyana), Carl Singh and High Court Judge (Belize) and former Justice of Appeal (ag) in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Godfrey P. Smith.

Evidence during the inquiry was led by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Sophia Chote and other lawyers, including Natasha Veira and Keoma Griffith.

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