The rigging of elections must become a thing of the past in Guyana. Rigged elections have proven to be too costly for our nation. Guyana must preserve its standing as a democratic nation; and we, as a united people, should strive for massive economic development while embracing inclusivity in our diversity.
This would enable Guyana to prosper, not just domestically, but on the global stage as well.
That said, the ongoing delays in the hearing of the electoral fraud cases must cease. These fraud cases have remained unresolved for three years. The attempt to rig the National and Regional Elections in 2020 disrupted our democracy for five months, requiring domestic struggle and international condemnation to restore peace and justice to our land.
Members of the Guyana Elections Commission, in collusion with known PNC/APNU/AFC affiliates, played a role in frustrating our democracy for an extended period.
A total of 32 electoral fraud cases has been filed in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
Already, several boxes containing certified copies of Statements of Poll (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) from the March 2020 elections have been handed over to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court. The documents will be used as evidence against those before the court. The SOPs and SORS were accompanied by statements and video evidence, which included copies of video-recorded interviews the accused had with the Police.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) DPP and acting Police Commissioner had initiated legal proceedings in the High Court, seeking orders to obtain certified copies of the SOPs and SORs from the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, which are currently lodged with the Registrar of the High Court. The decision to move to the High Court came after the Police Commissioner wrote the Registrar of the High Court, Sueanna Lovell, to obtain the certified copies of the documents, but was informed by way of a letter that this could not be done without an order from the Court.
The time is now ripe for the Judiciary to ensure that these fraud cases are heard, and justice is served. Last year, defence attorneys applied for the prosecution to drop some of the cases to expedite the proceedings. It is interesting to note that, earlier this month, the defendants’ attorney, Nigel Hughes, suggested that the prosecution drop some cases to expedite the proceedings. He claimed there was extensive evidence and the number of defendants involved, suggesting that the case might take several years to progress.
Hughes’s suggestion was met with strong objections from the prosecution. He was reminded of a similar application before the former Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, which was rejected. Notably, on dismissing the application, the Chief Magistrate had ordered that the case be heard expeditiously, giving its national importance.
This came after Special Prosecutor Darshan Ramdhani, KC, who is representing the state in the electoral fraud case, called for the assignment of a special court to hear the evidence in the electoral fraud cases. The Special Prosecutor also called for the cases to be consolidated into one, as the underlying evidence stems from the same source.
Further, he offered to write to the Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and the Chief Magistrate to discuss potential solutions and the appointment of a dedicated magistrate. This matter is now expected to be settled on December 12, 2023.
These cases must be resolved before the next National and Regional Elections.