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In the coming days or weeks, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), headed by Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, will determine whether an independent tribunal should be established to hear the motions seeking to remove the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield; the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers; and the Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo from Office over allegations that they compromised the 2020 Elections.
“The Commission will determine whether it can hear the matter [motion] or whether an independent tribunal should be established to hear the matter,” Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander told Village Voice News shortly after exiting a meeting of the Elections Commission on Tuesday.
Alexander disclosed that during Tuesday’s meeting, the motions tabled by the Government-nominated Election Commissioners – Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan – were not debated following his objection.
Alexander said he objected to the Commission hearing the motions on the basis that there should be no bias in the process. He pointed out that Gunraj, Shadick and Narayan had publicly indicated their position on the matter, resulting in them showing a bias against the accused Election Officials.
“I argued that they should not be party to a hearing because they have predetermined the outcome, and that the hearing would be a travesty,” Alexander told this publication.
The Government-nominated Election Commissioners reportedly argued that GECOM, being a statutory body, has the authority to hear the matter. They added too that Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo’s contracts provide for termination and that the matter was a simple one to be determined by GECOM.
“I argued that once you are talking about a hearing, then you are dealing with common law, no longer just statutory, and in common law, natural justice requires that the hearing as a principle should not be affected by bias,” Alexander further stated.
Based on the concerns raised GECOM took a decision to send the accused officials on leave pending its determination.
In a statement, GECOM said that the decision to send Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo on leave was a unanimous one. The officials will proceed on their annual leave with effect from Monday, June 28, 2021.
“This decision was necessary to facilitate the Commission’s deliberation on the three (3) motions tabled by the Government nominated Commissioners seeking the immediate dismissal of those persons as well as the course of action to be adopted to conclude this process,” GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward, said in a statement.
Ward indicated that the CEO will proceed on 42 days annual leave, the DCEO will proceed on 120 days leave and Mingo, 35 days leave.
“The Commission intends to conclude these discussions within the shortest possible time,” Ward assured the press.
The Government nominated Election Commissioners had tabled the motions on June 1, 2021 during a sitting of the Commission. In the motion against Myers, the PPP/C nominated Election Commissioners alleged that: “In breach of her functions, duties, responsibilities and obligations, the DCEO aided and abetted the CEO as he failed and or refused and or neglected to ensure due adherence and compliance of the statutory process, to wit, Section 84 of ROPA by Returning Officer for Election District Number 4, Clairmont Mingo, an election officer under his control and supervision, during the process of adding up the votes recorded in the Statements of Poll for the said district.”
Similar motions were tabled against Lowenfield and Mingo. The Election Officials, accused of electoral fraud, had up to June 15, 2021 to justify to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) why they should not be dismissed from Office. Their letters of defense were reportedly submitted on time.