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GECOM suspends vote count as PPP prepares to file contempt of court against Returning Officer

Reconciliation of the votes cast in Region Four did not begin on Thursday after stakeholders objected to the Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo’s use of spreadsheets instead of the Statements of Poll (SOPs), a move that triggered preparations of contempt of court proceedings by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) lawyer, Anil Nandlall.

Noting that the stakeholders present on Thursday at the Returning Officer’s Office rejected the use of spreadsheets generated from the SOPs that show the votes cast for each party, GECOM said Chairman Retired Justice Claudette Singh only received the Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire’s orders.

GECOM said in a statement that the Chairman would give further directives after she received and studies the written judgment. “In this regard, it was suggested that the process be discontinued and recommence when the Chairperson has received and studied the written judgement.

The Commission will advise the stakeholders on the next steps as it continues to work assiduously to ensure full compliance with the Chief Justice’s decision and the fulfillment of its constitutional duties,” GECOM said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law Nandlall on Thursday wrote the Region Four Returning Officer warning him that contempt of court proceedings would be filed against him if he fails to obey the decision of the High Court. Nandlall told Mingo that he was advised that just after 11am Thursday, he commenced the exercise provided for and contemplated by Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act, but in violation of the aforesaid Order of Court “you refused to ascertain and add up the votes recorded in favour of the list of candidate in accordance with the Statements of Poll, but instead, chose to use a pre-prepared spreadsheet, as the basis for the ascertaining and adding up of the said votes.”

Nandlall told Mingo that he was further instructed that none of the duly-appointed candidates of the PPP for Electoral District Number Four – Mohabir Anil Nandlall, Vindya Persaud, Indranie Chanderpal, Neendkumar, Shyam Nokta, Frank Anthony, May Thomas, Susan Rodrigues and Hugh Todd – were permitted to be present at the said exercise.

“The above constitute flagrant violations of the Order of the Honourable Chief Justice and I hereby give you and all persons carbon copied herein notice that I have been instructed to file contempt of court proceedings,” Nandlall told Mingo.

One of the consequential orders by the Chief Justice states that, “in the interest of transparency and taking into consideration, the Returning Officer and the Deputy Returning Officer for District Four is to decide whether the process of determining whether the total votes cast in favour of each list in the District by adding up the votes in favour of the list and in accordance with the Statements of Poll should be restarted or continued.”

The judgement states that it is for the Returning Officer to determine the method of reconciliation.