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…to ensure transparency in ballot count
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to immediately fire Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield if it is found that the Statements of Polls (SOPs) he recently handed over to the Court match the figures coming out of the 2020 General and Regional Elections National Recount.
He has also called for the firing of Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers and this is even as the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration is moving to draft amendments to the Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA) to ensure transparency in the count of ballots and penalties for electoral fraud.
Lowenfield and Myers are Myers are two of the main staff of GECOM that have been pursued by law enforcement since the declaration of the 2020 Elections in the favour of the PPP/C.
The party has vowed to go after those who they believe have played a role in electoral fraud although evidence has been slow with the case against the CEO. However, in late January, as part of the ongoing election petition case, Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George ordered the CEO to hand over both the SOPs and the Statements of Recount (SORs) to the Registrar of the Court for safekeeping.
“They [the Commission] should just ask for the SOPs that were submitted to the Chief Justice and if those SOPs that were in Mr. Lowenfield’s possession show that they match the recount numbers then they should just fire him immediately because that meant that he was prepared to accept what Mingo told him…outside of the Statements of Poll that he had in his possession,” the Vice President stated at a press conference on Tuesday.
He continued: “How could you even allow this to happen. It’s unconscionable. I’ve never seen anything of this sort in my lift that GECOM should not have fired him and Roxanne Myers already. It’s unbelievable. Any other part of the world they [would have] already been fired for cause.”
Jagdeo, through his attorney and as the Fourth Named Respondent in Elections Petition 88, is hoping to rely on the SOPS and or SORs during the course of the case though lead attorney for the Petitioners, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, has reminded the Court that the petition in question is based on law.
However, the Vice President gave no indication that the PPP/C Administration intends to let up on calls for the CEO to be fired or even imprisoned. On Tuesday he told the media that the CEO was holding fort at the Commission “as though he was God” affecting the public’s confidence in the Commission.
Jagdeo surmised: “I think the entire Commission is worried about what APNU will say. We know what APNU will say. They want Lowenfield to stay in there so he could continue doing their bidding.”
Amendments to ROPA
Meanwhile, the Vice President also noted that the Government is still working on the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to address the shortcomings of the Commission, especially during the recent elections.
He said that the right persons who are above reproach” and non-partisan are being sought from abroad. However, he anticipates that the APNU+AFC will nonetheless find fault.
Apart from this, the Government is working to draft amendments to the Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA) to ensure transparency in the count of ballots and a clear methodology on how the count should proceed. It is hoped that this will leave no ambiguity moving forward.
“For example, the Statements of Poll, when they are received before the count starts, we want them published in the newspapers, in the gazette and posted online. So, even before the count starts, the industrious Guyanese can then go, see the SOPs and they can calculate who won the elections,” he stated.
He noted that the amendments would also include a range of penalties for electoral fraud and state how recounts should take place. Despite the pending changes, the Vice President maintained that “free and fair” elections cannot be had with the presence of Lowenfield and Myers at the Commission.