‘Challenges by APNU+AFC during recount are mostly contrived and nonsensical’ – Ram

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Campaign Manager for APNU/AFC, Joseph Harmon

Outspoken Chartered Accounted and Attorney-at-law, Christopher Ram, in a letter to the media, today, referred to the challenges by the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Coalition during the recount as being “mostly contrived and nonsensical”.

Ram argued that the objections being raised by the Coalition are “not in the national interest”.

He said that ninety-eight days after the March 2, 2020 elections, it is time that this country moves on, with a President, Parliament, a Government and a Budget in place.

Following is the full letter: 

Dear Editor,

Yesterday, Guyana has crossed a major milestone in completing the recount of the votes cast in the March 2, 2020 elections. While this is not the end of the process, hopefully it is the beginning of the end. By this time tomorrow (Tuesday) the supervisor for tabulation will have completed the matrix for each Polling District to be forwarded to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO). The CEO is required to consolidate these and, along with a summary of the observation reports from the recount, send a report to the Commission no later than June 13.

Contrary to what David Granger has said, the CARICOM Scrutinising Team (CST) has no date by which to submit a report to the Commission which may include conclusions and recommendations. This type of documentation is typical of observer teams but because of its special role, the CST will submit its report to GECOM, presumably first reporting to the CARICOM Chair.

Under the Order, GECOM is specifically mandated to deliberate over the CEO’s report and according to Granger, over the CARICOM report as well. Part of the deliberation is the determination by the Commission whether to request the CEO to use the data submitted by him as the basis for a report to ascertain and declare the results of the elections.

This may sound simple enough but it is unclear whether APNU+AFC will cooperate in these further steps to conclude the process, ending with the swearing in of the President. The Coalition has been refusing to sign all but one of the Statements of Recounts and may very well refuse to sign matrices to be submitted to the CEO. While that is unlikely to stall the process, the statement by the Coalition after GECOM had decided to tabulate the East Coast ballots is more serious.

Declaring that GECOM must give the rationale for what APNU+AFC referred to as an inexplicable decision, the Coalition made clear its non-acceptance of the tabulated vote which it claimed contained “several votes which are fraudulent”. It is unclear how the Coalition reached that conclusion since its initial case was that the votes could not be tabulated because of the absence of documents. While the term “fraudulent” is of wide import, it is used only three times in the Representation of the People Act and unless the APNU+AFC is somehow accusing GECOM officials of fraud, the use of the term is unfortunate, misleading and incorrect. It is unlikely that the author of the statement would have used that word had s/he been familiar with elections principles and laws. If the recount has proved one thing it is that the only clear fraud was committed by the Returning Officer for District No. 4.

With respect to GECOM’s rationale for its decision on the East Coast boxes, that too is simple.  Even if there is fraud or gross negligence on the part of GECOM, the sacred principle is whether the will of the voters can be seen on the facts of the case. The principle is that elections should reflect the wish of the people, expressed through the ballot box and that the Court should put first and foremost the intention of the electorate. While an election petition can be pursued if there are reasonable grounds, the challenges by the APNU+AFC during the recount are mostly contrived and nonsensical. In my opinion, it is not in the national interest, or indeed its own interest, for the APNU+AFC to consume all its energies on elections that have now been held.

Ninety-eight days after the March 2, 2020 elections, it is time that this country moves on, with a President, Parliament, a Government and a Budget in place.

Christopher Ram