Legal proceedings against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and another individual has been filed by one of the constituency candidates for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in Berbice seeking to have the names of some 50 persons, that the Party said was fraudulently affixed to the backer’s lists for Local Government Elections (LGE) to be removed.
The court document names Shafraz Beekham as the applicant, along with the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Orlando Christopher Persaud as the respondents.
The document outlines that the challenge is seeking to have the names of 49 other electors appearing on list of backers in support of the Alliance For Change (AFC) constituency candidates removed.
It noted that the submission was made to Persaud on September 21, 2018, in Whim Bloomfield, Berbice Local Authority Area (LAA), for the LGE 2018. The PPP is challenging on the grounds that the said decision is unlawful, illegal, and unreasonable and is in violation of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act.
The document also cites Persaud’s alleged refusal to withdraw the applicant’s name and the names of 49 other electors. It said unless the names are withdrawn, the election in the LAA would be tainted with “illegality and fraud.” It also noted that Persaud’s refusal happened before the expired deadline on September 26, 2018.
In a sworn affidavit, Beekham, who is a registered elector on the Official List of Electors for Constituency Number 3 in the Whim/Bloomfield Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) said he and others were deliberately deceived into signing a document by an Alliance For Change representative who he claimed fraudulently represented that she was employed by GECOM and that he needed to sign a document to confirm that his name was on the voter’s list.
“I am informed and do verily believe by the other electors in the community that they were told that they would benefit from better roads, jobs, better pension and rehabilitated playgrounds and were also deceived into signing,” he stated in court documents.
He said too that it was only after Nomination Day on September 21, 2018, that he learnt that the signature which was taken from him was unauthorisedly used as a nominator backing the AFC candidate in constituency Number 3.
According to him, at no time whatsoever was he or the other residents informed, or did they know that they were in fact signing a list of backers in support of the AFC candidate(s).
Persaud said on becoming aware of the fraud perpetuated against him and other electors, he immediately demanded that their names be withdrawn or deleted from the AFC lists.
He recalled that he and the other electors had affidavits to withdraw their names and support for the AFC candidate on the lists submitted. On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, Beekham and other electors visited Persaud’s office in Whim to submit the affidavits to have their names withdrawn.
According to his court document, “The first named respondent was not in office and there was no other representative present who would accept our withdrawals. I returned to the first named respondent’s office at 2:00pm (14:00h) on September 26, 2018, with the other electors to submit our withdrawals. It was made clear to Persaud that we did not knowingly or intentionally submit or affix our signatures to any lists in support of AFC candidates.
“The first named respondent initially refused to accept our withdrawals erroneously, stating that the time has expired for us to do so.” The PPP candidate said he did not leave and persisted to demand that his name be removed from the list. He recalled making contact with PPP GECOM Commissioner and Attorney Bibi Shadick and sought her intervention and advice.
He was informed that at a meeting between GECOM Commissioners on September 25, 2018, it was confirmed that the deadline for the submission of the statutory affidavits was on 23:55h on September 26, 2018.
“The statutory affidavits to withdraw the names of electors from the lists could be submitted by the representative (head of the list) or deputy representative or in person by the elector. If the elector appeared in person, a letter addressed to the first named respondent would have sufficed to effect a withdrawal. The statutory affidavits were legal documents which the first named respondent would be duty bound to accept,” he added.
However, after 14:30h on September 26, the CEO was out of touch and was not in his office and could not be reached personally or by telephone to give any directions to Persaud. In the absence of the CEO, the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers, was contacted in her office and indicated that she could not give any instructions to Persaud without first conferring with the CEO of GECOM who she was also unable to contact.
Subsequently, Persaud informed Beekham that he will accept the statutory affidavits from him and the other electors only if the electors desirous of withdrawing (including himself) were present in person. Beekham and 49 other electors presented themselves to Persaud the same day.
But he later advised that “a confrontation had to be done between us and the AFC candidates” and further that the AFC candidates would be given time to rebut the allegations being made and fixed 10:00pm (22:00h) as the deadline after which a decision would be made.
When the time had reached, Beekham said that he and the 49 other electors were all present. The AFC candidates were not present. Persaud then proceeded to accept all of the affidavits and in his presence signed and issued an acknowledgement of receipt to the representative of the PPP Himatee Latchman.
Beekham learnt on Friday, September 28, that Persaud had refused to withdraw his name and that of the 49 other electors from the lists submitted by the AFC.
The proceedings were served on Wednesday. The matter is fixed for hearing before Justice Navindra Singh on October 11. The attorneys representing Beekham are Adrian Anamayah, Ian Anamayah and Anil Nandlall.