Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has rubbished claims that the current Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration is on a campaign to witch-hunt officers of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) based on racial and/or political considerations.
Edghill was at the time responding to a number of accusations made by top Peoples National Congress (PNC) member Aubrey Norton on a previous edition of the Trinidad-based CCN TV6’s Morning Edition.
Norton had claimed that the PPP/C, since taking office in August this year, has started a relentless campaign to target persons mainly of Afro-Guyanese descent.
However, Edghill who appeared on a recent edition of the said programme fired back saying: “I am not surprised, Mr Norton is part of an outfit that believes in spinning narratives, creating deflections, providing misinformation to the public to hide the truth of what is taking place.”
Providing clarity on the matter in relation to the ongoing probe into electoral fraud in Guyana, Edghill posited that unlike what was being peddled by Norton, the current investigations have nothing to do with the Government or politics, instead it is a police probe that is being conducted to hold persons accountable for their alleged actions.
“We have a situation in Guyana where people are being held accountable for their actions… as part of a plot to derail an elections and produce fraudulent (elections) results.
“There is a police investigation, if it is so that the persons who are questioned or who are charged and placed before the court in keeping with their involvement all happens to be of a particular ethnic group, the Guyanese people or the Guyana Government should not be held accountable for that,” Edghill stated firmly.
According to Edghill, “there is no evidence whatsoever, perceived or real,” that the Government is on a political witch-hunt or a campaign against afro Guyanese.
“Anyone who signs and makes a fraudulent declaration is a police matter, it’s not a political matter,” he argued.
“The Government is delivering to the people of Guyana, the police are investigating (alleged) criminal actions and wrongdoings and that is the reality in Guyana today,” he told viewers.
Edghill, who also previously served as Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) for a number of years, reminded that when President Irfaan Ali took the oath-of-office in August, he assured all Guyanese about the fashion and mode in which he will administer the State – a society where all citizens will have equal access to opportunities and resources.
He noted that since the PPP/C assumed office, a number of critical measures were put in place to assist citizens across the country, irrespective of their race or political affiliation.
The many relief measures in Budget 2020, including the 25,000 cash grants for households, he said, caters for everyone.
“The police are investigating criminal activity, the Government is serving the people of Guyana, bringing development to the people, advancing our Manifesto promises, ensuring that farmers, nurses and policemen, frontline workers, the vendors in the markets, taxi drivers, miners, we are ensuring that they could get back to work and their livelihoods could be secured in a safe Covid-19 pandemic environment,” the Minister highlighted.
Several officers of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and a former APNU/AFC Government Minister are presently facing private criminal charges over their alleged involvement in attempts to tamper with the results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
Back in March, Charles Ramson Jr, who had served as PPP/C’s Counting Agent, had filed private criminal charges against Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo and former Minister of Health Volda Lawrence following the RO’s declaration of unverified results for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica).
Lawrence was arraigned in August on this charge and placed on bail. The matter is still pending in court.
The particulars of the charge state that Mingo, having been procured by Lawrence on or about March 5 at the Command Centre for GECOM on High and Hadfield Streets, uttered to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, the election results for Region Four, knowing it to be forged, with intent to defraud the people of Guyana.
GECOM, despite being barred by an injunction, went ahead and published the Form 24s [which is the election declaration] for all regions on its website. This included the unverified declaration for Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district.
Mingo’s declaration, which was subsequently set aside by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, was signed by him and Lawrence – the lone representative from the political parties that contested the elections. The other parties had objected to the declaration after the verification process was not fully complied with by the Returning Officer.
It was subsequently unearthed during the National Recount exercise that Mingo had heavily inflated the figures to give the then APNU/AFC incumbent a lead at the polls.
However, the recount exercise showed that the PPP/C won the elections with 233,336 votes, while the coalition secured 217,920 votes – a difference of some 15,416 votes.
As such, Mingo was charged by the police and arraigned last month on four counts of misconduct in public office. He is currently on $600,000 bail.
In addition, he is also facing the private criminal charge jointly with Lawrence, for which he is currently out on self-bail.
Lowenfield, his deputy Roxanne Myers and a few other elections officers, are also at the center of the ongoing probe.