LETTER: GECOM Chair must explain reasons for voting against transparency measures for recount

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Dear Editor,

The Prime Minister of Barbados, on March 17, in recalling the high-level Caricom team she sent to provide oversight for the recount of all ballots, declared there were forces within GECOM determined to prevent the recount. Last weekend, some 40 days after Prime Minister Mottley made her damning remarks, GECOM said we had to wait until Moses Nagamootoo and the COVID-19 Task Force gives a go-ahead for the recount.

This weekend, GECOM is now waiting for Caricom to give the go-ahead. I hope next weekend we are still not waiting for the recount to start because of some other flimsy excuse. Clearly, GECOM is buying time, consolidating its plans to rig the results of the elections. The ballots represent the will of the people and they are still in the box. The GECOM/APNU/AFC cabal is not in a hurry to recount the ballots; they know what those ballots say. The recount will happen only when the rigging cabal is assured it can manipulate the results.

The recount was agreed to since March 14. It is now more than 40 days since the agreement for the recount and more than 55 days since the elections. Yet it is one excuse after another. Diverse stakeholders want the recount to begin right now and to last for no more than ten days. APNU/AFC insists we must leave it up to GECOM, where forces inside that APNU controls are determined to prevent the free and transparent recount.

GECOM wanted 156 days for the recount. Confronted with national and international outrage, they have agreed to a recount process with ten counting tables and to work only between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, in an open-ended process, lasting a minimum of 25 days, but possibly extended for months. There is no starting date or a deadline for completion of the recount. The APNU/AFC Commissioners insist on this open-ended recount process. The GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh, agrees with them. The extraordinary effort to extend this process can only mean they want more time to corrupt the results.

The Guyanese people and every stakeholder who want to see free and fair elections are highly suspicious and their suspicion is now heightened. Last Friday, the PPP Commissioners at GECOM made 10 recommendations to ensure transparency and accountability in the recounting process.

Every single transparency and accountability measure that stakeholders have proposed has been rejected by GECOM. Justice Claudette Singh and the three APNU/AFC Commissioners joined forces to reject all the measures proposed intended to guarantee every vote is counted for the party earning that vote. Why were these measures rejected? Mia Mottley told us why more than a month ago. Prime Minister Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago is correct when he surmised that “this will not end good”.

The Statements of Poll were provided on March 2 to the political parties, to all Presiding Officers, Returning Officers and to GECOM. These are public, not secret properties. Why is it GECOM Commissioners cannot see them? They have an absolute right to request examination of the SoPs. That forces in GECOM want these SoPs to stay hidden indicate a sinister secret is being desperately hidden. Is it that these SoPs confirm the PPP won or GECOM tried altering the SoPs and they now cannot let anyone see the evidence?

Why would GECOM not want to video the counting process, why would they object to live-streaming the counting? The argument that the Representation of the People Act does not cater for live-streaming of the recount is ridiculous. The same law did not cater for a spreadsheet to replace the SoPs, but that is exactly what the same GECOM did.

In any case, the GECOM outline for the recount is not in accordance with the Act. But even if live-streaming is not mentioned in the law, the law does not object to anything that increases transparency. The law sets out the minimum conditions that must be met for transparency and accountability. Anything adding transparency and accountability to the process is meeting the objective of the law. The law is not an ass and was never intended to prevent the addition of more guarantees for transparency and accountability.

Why would anyone object to having a qualified audit body present to ensure the proper counting and tabulation of the votes? GECOM is not in a position to argue it is totally capable of doing this task when it so spectacularly failed just a few weeks ago, caught rigging the process, in front of the whole world. No one has confidence GECOM will conduct themselves professionally and reflect accurately the vote count.

Thus, all stakeholders want an independent audit firm to ensure no jiggery-pokery and the law provides GECOM with the power to allow the presence of qualified professionals to record and tabulate the results. In addition, why limit the observers who could be present? The observers that were present for the elections have a right to be present for these proceedings.

That GECOM opposes these transparency and accountability provisions, none of which contravenes anything in the law, none of which limits the authority of GECOM, all of which add to the overall confidence in the recount process, tells a story. It is that GECOM is part of the APNU/AFC rigging cabal.

Until now, most people thought that the GECOM forces included the APNU/AFC Commissioners and a Lowenfield-led team within the GECOM Secretariat. But the behaviour of Justice Claudette Singh throughout this process left many with serious questions where she stood.

Sincerely,

Dr Leslie Ramsammy