CJ orders release of SOPs to Police, DPP

Chief Justice Roxane George

Chief Justice Roxane George this morning ordered the release of the certified Statements of Poll (SoPs) from the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections to the Guyana Police Force and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In her ruling, the High Court Judge said, among other things, that as sole custodian of the electoral documents, there is nothing preventing the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lownenfield from releasing them to facilitate police investigations.

DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, and Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie had filed an application requesting certified copies of the Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs).

As part of the hearing of APNU+AFC’s election petition #88, which was subsequently thrown out, Justice George had ordered the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to hand over the original copies of the SoPs and SoRs to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Judicature, Sueanna Lovell, for safekeeping.

Following the conclusion of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections which were embroiled in controversy, several high-ranking GECOM officials were investigated by the Guyana Police Force.

They are CEO Lownenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DECO) Roxanne Myers, and Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.

Police later sent a file to the chambers of the DPP which recommended charges for the trio. Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo were subsequently charged with several counts of misconduct in public office in relation to their conduct at the national elections.

Lowenfield was also charged with forgery for allegedly uttering forged documents on two occasions purporting to show that they were a true report of all the votes cast at the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.

They were all released on monetary bail pending the hearing and determination of their trial.

In her application requesting certified copies of the documents, the DPP said that after charges were laid against the trio, she advised and instructed the Police to obtain certified copies of the SoRs and SoPs from GECOM as part of its probe and gathering evidence for presentation in court.

According to Ali-Hack, the SoPs and SoRs are necessary for the fair hearing of the charges as they constitute relevant evidence for the prosecution to prove the commission of the offences for which Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo are charged.

Lowenfield’s report to GECOM had claimed that the APNU/AFC coalition garnered 171,825 votes while the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) gained 166,343 votes. How he arrived at those figures is still unknown.

The certified results from the recount exercise supervised by GECOM and a high-level team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) pellucidly showed that the PPP/C won with 233,336 votes while the coalition garnered 217,920.

The recount exercise also proved that Mingo heavily inflated the figures in Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district – in favour of the then caretaker APNU/AFC regime.

The DPP has since hired a team of special prosecutors consisting of about six attorneys-at-law to prosecute the electoral fraud cases on behalf of the State.