GECOM votes on Thursday for removal of Lowenfield, others; Opposition Election Commissioners warn of more court action over process

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 August 2021, 17:02 by Denis Chabrol

Region/ District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo (left) and Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield at the High Court on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

The seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday failed to vote on terminating the employment contracts of the Chief Elections Officer, his deputy and the Region Four Returning Officer after two opposition Election Commissioners left the meeting over concerns that the government-aligned commissioners are insisting on showing cause for their removal.

The meeting has been adjourned to Thursday, August 12.

Pro-People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Election Commissioner, Bibi Shadick said  the vote to terminate the contracts of Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers and Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo would be taken even if the three pro-A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Election Commissioners – Vincent Alexander, Desmond Trotman and Charles Corbin are not present.

“They can go to court but a vote is going to be called for,” she said, referring to Guyana’s Constitution that states that after a GECOM decision is deferred for a lack of quorum, the meeting shall resume in 48 hours with the Chairman and any three Commissioners and decisions taken will be binding.

After pro-PPP Election Commissioner Sase Gunraj on Tuesday called for the termination of the contracts to be put to the vote, Messrs. Alexander and Trotman left the Commission meeting resulting in a lack of quorum.

Mr. Alexander indicated that he and his colleague commissioners on Tuesday resisted efforts by Ms. Shadick and Mr. Gunraj that cause must be shown for the termination of the contracts of the trio.  Relying on written evidence that he said states that the commission would not be proceeding with dismissal but instead termination with due notice, but he said at Tuesday’s meeting Ms. Shadick and Mr. Gunraj they “were writing back in cause.”  “Our position was that if you are bringing a motion and you are not dealing with cause, then you can’t make those references,” he said.

He acknowledged that the amended motions were not withdrawn and “we raised” the possibility of withdrawing the motions “and they said there is no need for the motions to be taken off.” Mr. Alexander said that Election Commissioner Narayan “seemed inclined to do that”.

Mr. Alexander cautioned that if the PPP-aligned commissioners on Thursday continue with the same approach of showing cause for termination, “then for us it is a matter for the court” . He and his colleagues prefer that a tribunal be established to conduct an unbiased hearing.

Election Commissioner Shadick said she and her colleagues would not withdrawn the motions and open up the possibility of a lawsuit and an award of damages. “I said ‘no’, I am not withdrawing my motion because I’m not a mad person to go after people to be dismissed without saying why I want them to be dismissed and I rely on all these things that I have said…They don’t want on GECOM’s record this motion that has all these infractions that these people (allegedly) committed,” she said.

Mr. Lowenfield on Monday, through his Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, withdrew a case against summary dismissal without a fair hearing after the Elections Commission had given a commitment for the contract to be terminated in keeping with the exit clause.

Mr. Lowenfield, Ms. Myers and Mr. Mingo have been accused in the pro-PPP Election Commissioners’ motions and by the State of malpractices connected to the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. They are facing several electoral fraud charges.