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A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Roysdale Forde SC, condemned the Government’s approach to establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 2020 Elections.
In an interview with Village Voice, Forde, who is one of the leading lawyers in the Opposition’s election petitions, said the establishment of the COI is a political decision taken by a political party who contested the elections and whose candidate has since assumed the presidency. He said it would have been expected that in view of the obvious conflict, the establishment of the COI would have at least seen a consultative process.
President Irfaan Ali, who announced the names of the members appointed to the COI last evening, before leaving for a Commonwealth trip, has not made known if there was any consultation before arriving at the decision. The APNU+AFC Opposition, which has 31 seats in the 65-seat National Assembly was not consulted, nor were other major stakeholders in society such as the trade union community.
The 2020 General and Regional Elections had the participation of Guyanese across the political, social and economic strata and were seen, in some sections of the society, as the mother-of-all-elections, given Guyana’s recent oil and gas wealth status.
Forde noted the COI is not into a non-contentious matter; it is into a very political and contentious political matter, and President Ali should have taken an inclusionary approach in identifying and announcing a panel. “The COI has therefore started off as a still birth incapable of hereafter delivering any outcome that can be seen as potentially or remotely credible. It is [also] very likely that the COI will have a negative impact on the judicial process, that is to say the election petition,” said Forde.
There are at least two election petitions before the court. The APNU+AFC Opposition has two. One was thrown out last December by acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, after finding that Mr. David Granger, presidential candidate of the APNU+AFC, was not served timely. The matter was taken to the Appeal’s Court, who in a 2-to-1 decision, ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the petition.
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney General Anil Nandlall SC, challenged the Appeal’s ruling and filed a case with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s court of last resort. The CCJ has set July 19 for hearing of the appeal petition
With these matters working their way through the courts, Forde questioned the timeliness of the COI, proffering that it “seems that the COI has been established to deliberately thwart the election petition proceedings.”
Last week Tuesday the President announced that he was going to set up a COI. However, the day after the President’s announcement, the Vice President announced, at his press conference, that the proposal by GECOM Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, for an internal review of the 2020 Election was “nonsense.” The named commissioners cited their reason for such a call was to evaluate GECOM’s internal performance with a view of avoiding a recurrence of what happened in 2020.
The Vice President had stated among his objections to a election review are that matters pertaining to the elections are before the court, and some of the staff who worked during the Elections are no longer there. He also accused the Opposition-nominated Commissioners of opposing the electoral system, hence their call for internal review and correction, where necessary. The Vice President has, since last evening, fallen in line in supporting the President’s COI.