Jagdeo welcomes CJ ruling paving way for 2020 elections fraud cases to proceed

Top row, from left – Volda Lawrence, Keith Lowenfield, Denise Babb-Cummings, and Michelle Miller. Bottom row, from left – Enrique Livan, Sheffern February, Clairmont Mingo, and Carol Smith-Joseph [Some of the individuals facing charges in relation to electoral fraud]

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has welcomed the ruling made by Chief Justice (acting) Roxane George that the constitutional rights of former senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would not be violated, regarding certain criminal proceedings pending against them in the Magistrates’ Court.

The CJ ruling clears the way for the trial of criminal charges related to the 2020 General and Regional Elections involving former Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield and his then Deputy Roxanne Myers among others.

The hearings are now scheduled for July 29-31 and August 5-6 before Magistrate Leron Daly.

Jagdeo during his weekly media conference on Thursday said: “we’re extremely pleased that the elections case or cases would proceed to trial in July.”

The matter will be adjudicated after a three-year delay.

“We want fair trial,” the VP emphasised.

He recalled that “there was an attempt to not only steal the elections but to not recognise the results…we need to send this strong signal to public officials…who would have to be objective [and] non-partisan, particularly in the conduct of the affairs of GECOM.”

In 2021, Lowenfield, Myers and Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo were slapped with charges in relation to conspiring with Volda Lawrence, Carol Smith-Joseph, and others to defraud the electors of Guyana by declaring a false account of votes for the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections. They are also facing charges relating to misconduct in public and forgery.

The former GECOM officials are accused of inflating or facilitating the inflation of results for Region Four, the country’s largest voting district, to falsely give the APNU+AFC coalition a majority win.

Reports are that the prosecution has already handed over certified copies of Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs), video interviews, and several other documents.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was ultimately declared winner of the elections, leading to the swearing-in of Dr Irfaan Ali as President of Guyana in August 2020.

Constitutional Challenge

Lowenfield and Myers, along with others, are charged with 28 criminal charges of attempting to commit fraud at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.

Their lawyers took an objection in the Magistrates’ Court that Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act breached their constitutional rights. The said Section states that:

“No evidence of any deliberations of the Elections Commission or communications between members of the Commission regarding its business shall be admissible in any court.”

Lowenfield and Myers claimed that they needed the deliberations or communications of the GECOM as part of the facilities for the preparation of their defence in the criminal proceedings.

As a result, they made an application for the criminal cases to be adjourned while they filed the constitutional challenge in the High Court. Amidst public criticisms, the Magistrate adjourned the criminal proceedings to await the decision of the High Court.

In the High Court, Lowenfield and Myers named the Attorney General (AG) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the constitutional action. On the 23rd of April, the Honourable Chief Justice ordered written submissions from all the parties, including GECOM, and fixed the matter for ruling on the 24th of May, 2024.

However, on May 24, the Chief Justice delivered her ruling.

In dismissing the case, the Court agreed with the submissions of the AG, the DPP, and GECOM. The Court stated that Lowenfield and Myers were on a fishing expedition and “cast their net too wide.”

The Court found no evidence that their constitutional rights were likely to be infringed.

The Court also found that the public interest in ensuring that GECOM’s deliberations remain confidential overrides whatever constitutional rights Lowenfield and Myers enjoy. Finally, the Court ruled that there was no ground established that shows that Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act breached any provisions of the Constitution.