President Dr Irfaan Ali has avowed that before dawn on Tuesday, he will announce the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) members for the 2020 General and Regional Elections – a period of relentless battle for democracy that arose from spell of bizarre rigging attempts.
He made the announcement during his feature address at the Enmore Martyr’s Day observance on Thursday.
“Your president promised an international CoI. So, I say to all those struggled in sacrifice, all those who worked in protecting the democracy that we have, in your honor, before dawn on Tuesday your President will name the members of that international CoI,” Ali told attendees.
He added, “Those who subverted democracy and those who cannot present their SoPs and those who struggled against the will of the people, the CoI will set the truth free from the untruth. The CoI will set those who dwell in the house of democracy against those who dwell in the fire of undemocratic rule and norm. Before dawn, the CoI will be in place and another victory for democracy will be sought.”
Following the prolonged elections and its attendant controversies, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) scrutinizing team had recommended a political audit into the functioning of GECOM.
President Ali had announced the COI, adding that persons governing this operation should be drawn from CARICOM, the Commonwealth or the Organization of American States (OAS).
Since last year, Ali had indicated that his government was “committed” to identifying the individuals responsible in the rigging attempts and pinpointing possible areas of weakness that can be used to guide the required strengthening of Guyana’s electoral system. This would be achieved through the Inquiry, to which stakeholder consultations were facilitated to select appropriate persons.
This week, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh reasoned that any review focused on investigating actual occurrences during the 2020 elections by the electoral body would be outside the scope of its power.
She contended that should the intention of a proposed review be to consider if there are, in fact, potential weaknesses in the processes employed by GECOM for the conduct of elections and to propose improved methods or processes for future elections, then this can and should be undertaken.
Justice Singh made these positions known in writing following a request made some five months ago by the Opposition Commissioners that an internal investigation be launched into the events of the 2020 elections.
Article 163 (1) of the Constitution, the Supreme Law of Guyana, stipulates that the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine questions relating to the validity of an election. GECOM is not a court of law and, therefore, has no authority to determine whether an election was lawfully conducted, and no such power was conferred on it under Article 162 (1) (b).
According to her, two of the questions raised in relation to whether GECOM should conduct a review of the 2020 elections are: the voting of persons who could not have voted, whether because they were dead or out of the jurisdiction, and the absence of documents which are required by law to be present in ballot boxes from a number of ballot boxes.
Since the elections fiasco unfolded, several persons that served within the apparatus of GECOM has already been charged with electoral fraud. They include former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield; former Deputy CEO Roxanne Myers, former Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo among others.