CJ to hear DPP, Top Cop’s arguments for copies of SoPs, SoRs

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GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield on Friday applied to the High Court to be added as a respondent in an application filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, and Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie, who are both requesting certified copies of the Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs) from the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.

Chief Justice Roxane George on Friday convened a hearing in the matter during which Lowenfield’s lawyer Nigel Hughes was granted leave to file an affidavit in support of the intended respondent. The lawyer was also granted leave to serve the relevant documents on the other parties on or before May 19, 2021. Justice George will entertain arguments in the case on May 24, 2021, at 13:30h after which she will fix a date for ruling.

At this time, the named respondents in the case filed by the DPP and Top Cop are Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and Registrar of the Supreme Court of Judicature Sueanna Lovell.

This decision by Lowenfield, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has since said, is aimed at persuading the court that the Statements of Poll should not be released.

“In short, Mr Lowenfield wants the High Court to prevent relevant and probative evidence against him from being made available to the Prosecution in his criminal trial!! Another attempt to block the SoPs from being made public!! Another record breaker…,” the Attorney General said on Friday.

Ahead of the hearing into APNU/AFC election petition #88 which was dismissed last month, the Chief Justice ordered GECOM to hand over the original copies of the SoPs and SoRs to the Registrar of the Supreme Court for safekeeping. This order was duly complied with.

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. Apart from Lowenfield, the others are 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. The three officials were all released on monetary bail pending the hearing and determination of their trial.

Prove offences
In her application requesting certified copies of the SoPs and SoRs, 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.

Pursuant to the Representation of the People Act, the DPP pointed out that SoPs are public records for which there is no restriction such as privacy, privilege, or secrecy. As such, she submitted, “There is no restriction to the Police obtaining them.”

“By the common law and statute, namely Section 50 of the Criminal Law (Procedure) Act, the Commissioner of Police and any member of the Police Force have the lawful right to collect and recover all documents and property which are relevant to the investigation and prosecution of any criminal offence,” the DPP further submitted.

After the elections concluded, Ali-Hack deposed that two election petitions were filed with the High Court and that on January 18, 2021, the Chief Justice ordered that the SoPs and SoRs in possession of Lowenfield be lodged with the Registrar of the High Court for safekeeping.

The Top Cop later wrote to the Registrar requesting certified copies of the documents but was informed by her that she is unable to provide them without a court order.

The DPP said that unofficial copies of the documents are in the public domain, and she believes that the original documents will confirm and show that certain numbers of cast votes were recorded on those documents and that together with other evidence will show that those charged deliberately ignored those recorded figures and made false declarations in furtherance of their conspiracy.

Considering this, the DPP wants the Chief Justice to grant an order compelling the Registrar of the Supreme Court to make certified copies of the documents in her possession and forthwith deliver them to the Attorney General and GECOM.

Others charged

People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairperson Volda Lawrence and APNU/AFC activist Carol Joseph are also before the courts on electoral fraud charges. There are also electoral fraud charges against GECOM clerks Denise Bob-Cummings and Michelle Miller and GECOM Elections Officer Shefern February and Information Technology Officer Enrique Livan.

They, too, have been released on bail.
Lowenfield’s report 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.