‘A weight has been lifted off the nation’s shoulder’ – Commissioner Gunraj

Commissioner Sase Gunraj

The nation can now breathe a sigh of relief after waiting for more than three-and-a-half months for a credible winner of the March 2 General and Regional Elections to be announced.

This was the initial reaction of Commissioner at the Guyana Elections Commission, Sase Gunraj, following the landmark decisions made earlier today (Tuesday), by Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh, bringing the contentious electoral process close to its end.

“I have no doubt that a weight has been lifted off the shoulders of all Guyanese,” Gunraj told media operatives.

After deliberations today by the seven-member Commission, Justice Singh instructed Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to prepare his report to ascertain the results of the elections under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03 and in keeping with Order No. 60 of 2020 and its addendum dated 29th May, 2020.

The data generated from the national recount shows that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the elections with a total of 233,336 votes. This is 15,416 more votes than its nearest rival, the APNU/AFC, which received 217,920 total votes.

When asked to comment on how long more would GECOM take before making the official declaration Gunraj responded: “I have no doubt that the Chairman is well aware of the roles she has to execute and she will execute them with dispatch”.

He added that his expectation is that the same alacrity which attended to the process in 2015 will be applied this time around.

Gunraj disclosed that during the Commission’s deliberations today, Government-aligned Commissioners presented a proposal for the elections to be nullified and for there to be fresh elections.

The PPP-nominated Commissioners, on the other hand, presented arguments in favour of using the results generated from the national recount as the basis for an official declaration.

Gunraj reiterated the decisions by Justice Singh in which she ruled that GECOM does not have the powers of a Court of Law to examine and re-examine witnesses or to procure official documents to determine the truth of the allegations contained therein.

In her ruling the GECOM Chair cited Article 163 (1) (b) of the Constitution which confers on the High Court the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of an election.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and GECOM Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh

Justice Singh also noted that the Commission cannot arrogate onto itself a jurisdiction to annul an election since no specific power was conferred on it under Article 162 (1) (b). She cited Articles 162 and 163 of the Constitution which shows that the Articles clearly and sharply separate the functions of GECOM and the High Court respectively in matters of electoral process.

Meanwhile, Gunraj also commended the CARICOM Observer Team for the manner in which they carried out their mandate.

“These are persons who executed their mandate with dispatch, with diligence, and at a time when we were facing and continues to face a pandemic. They have done extremely well and I believe the people of Guyana owe to those persons, and by extension CARICOM, a debt of gratitude,” he said.