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|Attorney General (AG) and Minster of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall S.C, in responding to questions on the missing statutory documents in ballot boxes in 2020 General and Regional Elections failed to address salient points.
Section 83 (10) (a) ‘Procedure on closing of the poll,’ in the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) mandates the presiding officer to “place the sealed envelope containing the counted and rejected ballots papers in the ballot box, and secure and seal, with his seal and with the seals of such of the duly appointed candidates and polling agents as desire to affix their seals, to the ballot box in such manner that it cannot be opened and that nothing can be inserted therein or taken therefrom without breaking the seals;”
The AG was apparently responding to the Village Voice’s story, on Thursday, which acknowledged whilst the declared results of the elections of March 2, 2020 are currently being challenged in court, there are other outstanding questions that require inquiry.
One such question is the credibility of the election process itself. One aspect of the credibility-question is the fact that 49 ballot boxes did not have statutory documents as required by ROPA. The missing documents include the all-important Statements of Poll. The ballots contained in those disputed boxes accounted for more than 12,000 votes which were included in the final tally. The ballot boxes that failed to meet the legal requirements were from polling stations located in People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) strongholds.
The AG responding to questions and concerns raised by the public argued that, “By law it is ballots that are counted and not the statutory documents that are in the ballot boxes, to tally the total of valid votes cast in Guyana’s elections. . . . Statutory documents are not necessary for the counting of ballots.”
The statutory documents, as required by ROPA, determine the validity or absence thereof of a vote and count. No legally required document is immaterial, because were they, there would be no need to make them a requirement in the first place, said a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) source. “These documents are necessary to ensure GECOM provides a valid vote and count and delivers credible results which determine who win the Executive and Regional Councils and the allocation of seats in the parliament and councils”
Referring to concerns raised by the political opposition and other stakeholders the AG lashed out. The PPP/C official said, “So this narrative that they keep spewing, they end up apparently believing it. And they have innocent, uninformed but complicit bystanders listening to them and drinking that Kool-Aid wholesale. That is the kind of people you’re dealing with, people who are living in an alternate world.”
The AG, however, failed to provide legal evidence ( from ROPA) to counter and substantiate what he sees as the alternate reality of others.
Dismissing legitimate questions and concerns raised by the public, the AG said GECOM must find the statutory documents that it allegedly misplaced and these documents are immaterial to the count of ballots which are in the 49 ballot boxes. GECOM has failed, thus far, to account for the missing statutory documents and holding accountable the 49 presiding officers who failed to put the sealed envelope into the respective ballot box as required by Section 83 (10) (a) of ROPA.