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– Hughes, Alexander accused PPP/C, police of duplicity
Even as the Guyana Police Force ramp up more criminal charges against the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield and the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers over the 2020 Elections, their Attorney – Nigel Hughes – said it is unclear how the high level Elections Officials could have conspired with the Region Four Returning Officer (RO), Clairmont Mingo, when they were not involved in the compilation of the Statements of Poll (SOPs).
Days after the Registrar of the High Court handed over the Statements of Poll (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) from the 2020 Elections to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo, all of whom are being represented by Hughes, were faced with fresh charges – conspiracy to defraud the electors of Guyana.
It is alleged that Lowenfield and Myers conspired with Mingo and others to defraud the electors of Guyana between March 2 and August 2, 2020. Though the police investigators made no mention of the SOPs and or SORs during their interviews with Lowenfield and Myers on June 8 and Mingo on June 9, it is believed that they are relying on those documents to file the new charges.
Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo are also facing a number of charges with respect to misconduct in public office and forgery.
During his appearance on Politics 101 – a virtual programme hosted by Political Scientist, Dr. David Hinds – Hughes said it is important to note that while the Chief Election Officer receives a report from the RO, he is not responsible for the compilation of the SOPs. He said the situation is the same for the DCEO.
“The Chief Elections Officer and the Deputy Chief Elections Officer…they don’t have anything to do with SOPs, they certainly cannot direct the Returning Officers how to compile the SOPs,” Hughes said, while emphasising that the CEO and DCEO cannot interfere with the compilation of the votes stated on the SOPs.
Hughes said too that while the police may be relying on the SOPs and SORs, “the SOPs can’t disclose a conspiracy.” Weighing in on the matter, Guyana’s longest serving Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander explained that within the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), there are elections officers with statutory authority, the 10 Returning Officers (ROs) being among the lot.
He said the Representation of the People’s Act clearly outlines the statutory functions and responsibilities of the ROs. “In the Electoral System, there are 10 Returning Officers, and those 10 Returning Officers under law have an obligation to do the compilation of the SOPs in the Electoral District and on the basis of that compilation to produce a report, which is then sent to the Chief Elections Officer,” Alexander explained on Politics 101 last Thursday.
He noted that SOPs are compiled within the electoral districts, however, in the case of District 4 (Demerara-Mahaica), the RO’s Office was found within GECOM’s Command Centre, where the CEO was operating, but only for a matter of convenience.
“It was just a matter of physical convenience that Region Four Returning Officer, was physically located in the same building as the Chief Elections Officer, but he was not under the jurisdiction of the Chief Elections Officer in so far as he was conducting the affairs of District 4,” the Elections Commissioner explained.
He noted that once a RO compiles his or her report, it is sent to the CEO, who then presents a general report to the Chairman of the Elections Commission for her submission to the Commission.
“The CEO doesn’t get involve in the operations of the Districts,” he emphasised.
Alexander said similarly, the DCEO, has statutory powers but those powers or responsibilities do not include the compilation of the SOPs. “Those statutory powers are related to things other than the issues at stake here that is the compilation of SOPs, declaration of results; the DCEO has absolutely no statutory obligatory responsibility for those things,” Alexander clarified.
He said based on the established procedures, it is clear that the Chief Elections Officer and his Deputy could not have conspired with Mingo. “The CEO and the DCEO cannot be co-conspirators with Mr. Mingo because he has a standalone operation, which allows him to produce the results,” Alexander emphasised.
The Elections Commissioner, during the course of the programme, accused the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government and the Guyana Police Force of being duplicitous. Turning the pages of history back to 2011, Alexander said there were no criminal charges instituted against then Chief Elections Officer, Gocool Boodoo, though it had been found that he attempted to change the formula for the seats in the National Assembly following the Elections.
In a letter dated July 11, 2013, Alexander wrote: “Let it be known that no calculations were presented to the Commission for scrutiny. Signed declarations were presented. There was nothing for the naked eye to discern. It was my academic knowledge of the system and my constant explanation of the system to students that equipped me to discern the false declaration (result). When challenged, Mr. Boodoo responded that he was right and was presenting the correct results. It required a sustained exchange; reference to the legal provisions that provide for the formula; and my insistence that he had used an incorrect formula that caused Mr. Boodoo to resort to the correct and only available formula to recalculate the allocation of seats.”
On Thursday night, Alexander reminded that Boodoo was not charged though his actions constituted attempted fraud. At the time, the PPP/C and the Elections Commission had said that Boodoo simply made a mistake, though had it not been detected, his action would have given the PPP/C a parliamentary majority.
That aside, Alexander said while the system was given an opportunity to work in 2011, the same could not be said of 2020.
“The process which provided for the GECOM Commissioners to be recipients, and this is the Chairperson and the six commissioners, to be recipient of Statements of Poll and to verify the authenticity of those documents, and on that basis be able to have in their possession the actual results, that process was derailed,” the Elections Commissioner said. According to him, the PPP/C nominated Elections Commissioners neglected their obligations.
Further, he said the Guyana Police Force failed to investigate the electoral fraud unearthed during the recount, though the then Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, in his capacity as the Chief Immigration Officer, had confirmed in June 2020 that 172 persons from a list of 207 were not in Guyana when the 2020 Elections were held, though their names were ticked off as having voted.
“In my humble view, the extent to which, the Guyana Police Force, more specifically the Commissioner of Police, having received information from the Chief Immigration Officer, authenticated the fact that the ballots being counted during the recount included ballots of persons who were not in the country at the time, and in a similar manner, the Registrar’s office, provided information to authenticate the fact that persons who had been deceased were also ticked off as having voted, and therefore we had information that prior to that final declaration that there were fraudulent votes being counted,” Alexander reasoned.
Political Scientist, Aubrey Norton, who also formed part of the panel, opined that there is absolutely no case against Lowenfield, Myers, Mingo and the others charged. “In my opinion this is pure politics,” Norton said.
He said it would appear that the Police Force is acting outside of the Laws. “Now all my life, I never heard of, you charge people, then investigate. That is what is happening before us. Now, you are bringing these charges, after you would have brought charges without any evidence,” Norton said.
Like Alexander, he expressed disappointment that notwithstanding widespread fraud being unveiled during the National Recount in 2020, the police, it would appear, have turned a blind eye to the evidence.