GECOM Chair lauded for displaying courage amid attempts to derail electoral process

GECOM Chair Justice Claudette Singh during a press conference to update the media on the March 2 elections 

Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Justice (retired) Claudette Singh has been recognised for the courage she displayed in the face of attempts to derail the electoral process in Guyana.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley – who was a key technical advisor to the GECOM – in a letter to the media on Tuesday, stated that he was able to witness first-hand Justice Singh’s determination to follow the law and do what is right for the country.

“One person, one woman, held fast to her oath of office to deliver the final legal verdict of the election – the Chair of GECOM, Retired justice Claudette Singh.

“I bore first-hand witness to her determination to do the right thing at every step of the electoral process, to her indomitable will to overcome every obstacle, and to achieve the true results of the election by meeting all the legal challenges thrown her way,” the technical adviser recalled.

In spite of the rulings of the courts, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield had persisted in disregarding the Chairperson’s instructions on at least four occasions to use the recount figures to produce his final report for declaration. It was only after he was cornered and left with no other option that he decided on Sunday to present his report using the figures deriving from the CARICOM-supervised recount.

After Justice Singh insisted on following the decisions of the court to use the recount results for final declaration, she was also threatened with legal action by supporters of the APNU/AFC Coalition.

Coalition supporters also took to the streets where they burnt an effigy of the GECOM Chair and hurled insults at her after she ruled that the March 13 declarations from the ten Returning Officer, which included Clairmont Mingo’s fraudulent numbers, must be discarded and replaced with the certified recount results.

“I cannot recall, in all my international experience, such a display of courage, of true grit, over such a prolonged period of time after Election Day, after so much pressure,” Kingsley expressed.

According to Kingsley, the GECOM Chair held fast against every attempt to derail the final count, the one whereby what came out of the ballot boxes was a true reflection of what went in, the free expression of the Guyanese people’s democratic will.

“And yet such is the case here: Claudette Singh has acted well beyond the call of duty and deserves to be recognised as the hero she is by all democrats around the world, especially those of Guyana.”

GECOM Chairperson, Justice Claudette Singh at the national recount venue – the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

CARICOM, in its report on the national recount exercise, had recognised the critical role played by the GECOM Chair.

The regional team noted that Justice Claudette Singh had to face “constant maneuverings” by political parties “as they attempted to manipulate” her.

Justice Singh became Chairperson of GECOM in July 2019 following an agreement between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and the then President David Granger.

However, during her time as Head of the Commission, “there was certainly intense psychological warfare waged” against her.

The CARICOM Team singled out one particular instance whereby “one political party besieged the Chair with a score of letters alleging irregularities and demanding decisions from the Commission.”

It was the APNU/AFC Campaign Manager Joseph Harmon who wrote some 11 letters to the Chairperson; he too had “demanded” answers from Justice Singh – a move which was already condemned by the PPP/C.

Moreover, CARICOM Team said it also took note of “massive pressure exerted upon her from both forces internal to the Commission and external to the Commission.”

The Team noted that in many respects, “the Chair was invariably in the position of a referee in a very intense and hostile football match, with GECOM ultimately being played like the proverbial football.”

The then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, GECOM Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh, and the then President David Granger following the appointment of Justice Singh as the new Chair of GECOM [File Photo: 2019]
As such, the CARICOM Team applauded “the Chair for her strength during this pressurized period. And we do say strength, despite the labelling of weak heaped upon her by Commissioners who were unable to get their view supported by the Chair Chair who has the casting vote.”

Meanwhile, Kingsley, who has several years of experience in elections management and observation, bemoaned the fact that a new President was sworn in to office, five months to the day after the election. This occurred after numerous attempts to affect the final count to an Election Day which was recognised by every credible international and national observer group to have been a success.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

Kingsley is a former Chief Electoral Officer for Canada. He served in that capacity from 1990 to 2007 during which he participated in many significant international development missions aimed at promoting democratic electoral processes through cooperation, capacity building, and mutually beneficial relationships.

He also provided electoral assistance to several Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago.

According to his profile on the Canadian elections body website, Kingsley was proactive during his term in office, recommending and promoting key initiatives to make the electoral process more accessible.

The expert’s appointment as Advisor to the GECOM was funded by the Canadian Government.