GECOM’s failure to address attempts at electoral fraud led to Mingo fiasco—Gunraj

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Sase Gunraj, GECOM Commissioner. [File Photo]
It was the failure of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to deal with issues of electoral fraud in a uniformed way, that has caused the system to be circumstanced in a such a way, that enables persons “to try these things over and over again.”

This was the damning revelation by GECOM Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioner, Sase Gunraj, who on Thursday was asked to respond to the claims of fictitious results being presented by a GECOM Officer in order to alter the results of the March 2, Polls.

The scathing criticism of the GECOM Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, was given a day earlier by Head of the Organisation of American States’ Election Observer Mission, Bruce Golding.

According to Gunraj, over the years, GECOM “abjectly failed to deal with those issues in a condign manner.” He was at the time pointed to the recent allegations of previous attempts in earlier elections juxtaposed with the Commission’s response.

Speaking specifically to the issue of fake Statements of Poll (SOPs) that had made its way into the tabulation centre during the 2015 elections, the GECOM Commissioner recalled that ever since then he would have demanded to see the SOPs by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield.

He told media operatives that GECOM, while being a democratic organisation, has failed under successive chairpersons to address the issues.

Gunraj was at the time referencing former Chairpersons Dr Steven Surujbally and retired Justice James Patterson.

According to Gunraj, it was Surujbally who voted against the release of the SOPs at that time and that Justice Patterson had dealt with the matter raised during a local government election related to proxy votes.

He told reporters that there had been an investigation and that Justice (rtd) Patterson had ruled that it was a non-issue.

Gunraj noted too that the issues of the fake SOPs are in fact central to an election petition that had been filed and that five years later this matter is still to be concluded.

According to Gunraj, however, “while I do not reject the idea that GECOM is without blame and perhaps is very blameworthy in the diligent prosecution of that issue perhaps the court which is charged with responsibility of dealing with that also should take some blame.”

He again pointed to the five-year time line that has elapsed since that petition was filed and that the issues have still not been ventilated.

Gunraj noted additionally that the onus to address the issues related to electoral fraud and attempts at electoral fraud do not rest entirely with the court but sought to point out “if the majority of the commission refused to deal with it, unfortunately my hands are tied.”

The GECOM Commissioner told reporters the electoral institution is “supposed to be a democratic body and in a democratic situation, majority rules and I am bound by the decision of the majority.”