Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 16:18 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM Tuesday afternoon left a commission meeting, effectively blocking debate on pro-government motions for the dismissal of the Chief Elections Officer, Deputy Chief Elections Officer and the Region Four Returning Officer for their alleged roles in irregularities in last year’s elections.
Pro-A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Election Commissioner Vincent Alexander said he and his two opposition colleague Desmond Trotman walked out of the meeting, objecting to People’s Progressive Party’s Election Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick being part of the hearing because of inherent bias due to public pronouncements. He said after they exited, the commission had no quorum to continue its business on the ground that the proponents are bias and so the hearing would not be fair.
“Natural justice provides for a hearing and for no bias in the process. My contention is that they brought the charges and have publicly pronounced on the matter. They are therefore bias and should not sit in judgement,” Mr. Alexander told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News.
Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has already asked the High Court to find that GECOM is obliged to abide by protections of the rules of natural justice. He asked the court to find that Ms. Shadick and Mr. Gunraj’s participation in the commission’s discussion on their own motion has “infected the deliberations of the Commission with bias.” Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes has said that the High Court’s decision would also affect Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers and Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
Mr. Alexander and Mr. Gunraj on Tuesday continued to be at odds over whether a an impartial tribunal could be appointed preside over a hearing. Mr. Gunraj, a practicing Attorney-at-Law, insisted that the law does not provide for such a mechanism. “Not catered for in law.,” he remarked.
The pro-PPP Commissioners are relying on the Constitutional role of the seven-member Commission which includes “the appointment of all of the staff to the offices thereof inclusive of all temporary staff”.
But Mr. Alexander said a “neutral tribunal” could be set up probably by an Order that would state mandate, composition and procedure. “The common law provides for it. We adhere to common law and the legal precedents derived therefrom. Once you invoke natural justice, as the Chairman has done, then common law kicks in,” said Mr. Alexander who holds a Masters in Law.
Commissioner Alexander noted, though, that the complainants have replicated the charges that are before the court.
Those charges include misconduct in public office and fraud against Guyanese at the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.