Last Updated on Sunday, 12 July 2020, 20:26 by Denis Chabrol
The groundwork is being laid for the dismissal of the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield over his refusal to obey instructions from the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Claudette Singh to submit a report of recounted, valid and certified votes cast at the March 2, 2020 general elections.
The Chairman and the three pro-People’s Progressive Party (PPP) election commissioners are expected to form a quorum even if the pro-A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) commissioners do not turn up a second time this week for another commission meeting.
Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, who is also Chairman of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party, and Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Anil Nandlall said the four commissioners could constitutionally decide to fire Mr. Lowenfield and apply someone else with the expectation that the new Chief Elections Officer would comply with the GECOM Chairman’s instructions. “She gets the report from the new CEO and then makes a declaration. We don’t know what will happen after that,” he said.
Mr. Ramkarran highlighted that the Constitution prohibits any decision by the Elections Commission from being questioned in court.
GECOM is expected to meet at 10 O’clock Monday morning.
Accusing the Chief Elections Officer of gross dereliction of duty and violation, Mr. Nandlall said Mr. Lowenfield could no longer command public trust and so “he must be dismissed and replaced by another CEO who would discharge the functions of his office and declare the results as generated by the recount.”
Asked how the Commission could circumvent the report that Mr. Lowenfield submitted on Saturday, Mr. Nandlall said the Commission does not have to accept the report if “it does not reflect the will of the people” and “the number of votes cast accurately.”
Mr, Nandlall dismissed claims by the Chief Elections Officer that he is constitutionally autonomous, saying that the Recount Order stipulates that the Election Laws (Amendment) Act and the Constitution as well as the Recount Order all subject him and other officers to the control and direction of the Commission.
Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman said the Chief Elections Officer could not be fired for seeking advice or guidance from the GECOM Chairman but getting none. He said if Mr. Lowenfield is dismissed, that would worsen Guyana’s now more than four-month old political crisis that has stemmed from a controversy over the election results. “That is going to lead to graver difficulties if at this point in time a move is made to dismiss him
Mr. Trotman and Mr. Nandlall differed over whether a new Chief Elections Officer could certify election results about which he has no knowledge.
“Even if a new CEO is put in place, he or she can’t certify these results because he or she would not have been participating in the process to the point where he or she can say ‘I can now fulfill or finalise these results because I have been a party to them’… Quite frankly, if you dismiss the CEO, we will plunge ourselves into a deeper channel because no one else has the general and even specific authority or even supervision,” Mr. Trotman said on APNU+AFC Facebook discussion.
“What nonsense is that? Lowenfield doesn’t have any personal peculiar knowledge. Everything is on paper. All the documents have to be read and tabulated. That is the kind of disgraceful argument coming from a lawyer. He should be ashamed of himself,” said Nandlall.
The PPP and the international community are rooting for only the recount data to be used to declare the results of the elections. The latest results that were submitted by the CEO on Saturday includes the bloated declaration for Region Four that sparked off widespread concern among opposition parties and international local observers.
Except for a few discrepancies uncovered on the face of it, the recount results for Districts 1 to 3 and 5 to 10 almost matched those from the district declarations in March. The results for Region Four confirmed that the declaration by Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo were bloated in favour of APNU+AFC with 136,057 votes and 77,231 for the PPP. The recounted votes show that APNU+AFC got 116,941 and the PPP 80,920 and an overall win for the PPP.
The AFC Chairman endorsed the Chief Election Officer’s report that was submitted on Saturday, and said any aggrieved party could file a High Court election petition after the winner is declared.