Many unresolved issues at GECOM must be addressed – Gunraj

GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj
GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj

Commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Sase Gunraj has lamented that there are too many unresolved issues at the electoral body that need to be addressed.

This, he indicated, is necessary for confidence to be restored to the organisation so that it can proceed with its work with the full support of the public.

From December 2018 to August 2020, GECOM was the center of controversy with numerous allegations and drama relating to the holding of General and Regional Elections.

In light of these controversies, many have called for an audit or Commission of Inquiry into the Elections Commission.

In fact, President Dr Irfaan Ali has already announced a CoI for GECOM.

In an interview with this publication on Wednesday, Gunraj backed calls for a CoI and a political audit into the electoral agency.

“I would love to see an audit into the operation of GECOM, in several areas. As we speak, there are spirited discussions at the Commission in relation to remuneration and HR policies. That’s one aspect that an audit or Commission of Inquiry can touch on.”

“Then there is the other aspect I touched upon. The reasons why there was flagrant disregard for the law, governing the operations of GECOM,” he explained.

According to Gunraj, a CoI must get to the bottom of why the Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo made a declaration of results on March 5, which did not follow the statutory process for including stakeholders.

Moreover, Gunraj pointed out that this CoI or audit must determine why Mingo declared numbers that differed from the Statements of Poll (SOPs) that ought to have been available to him -statements which should have shown that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections by over 15,000 votes.

“All of which actions were deemed unlawful by the court. But even in the face of rulings of the court, that his actions were unlawful, he nevertheless (subsequently) proceeded to do the very thing the court ruled unlawful.”

“So, when he switched from faulty spreadsheets, to a dirty bed sheet to purport to display Statements of Poll, he was all along engaging in acts that flew in the face of the ruling of the Chief Justice,” Gunraj said.

Additionally, Gunraj noted that a CoI must delve into why Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield went on to rely on Mingo’s declaration to prepare a report to submit to the Commission, even clashing with the instructions of GECOM Chair, retired Justice Claudette Singh.

“After a recount that lasted 30 days, Lowenfield took those results that were witnessed by the entire world, by CARICOM, by stakeholders and observers. And he sought to take those results from the Statements of Recount and mangle them,” Gunraj recalled.

“And it was not as if those results prepared by Mingo and Lowenfield, were designed with various outcomes in mind. They were all designed to provide a plurality of votes for one particular party,” he said.

After the passage of a No Confidence Motion (NCM) in December 2018, GECOM spent over a year trying to get ready for snap elections that should have been held by March 2019. GECOM finally held General and Regional elections on March 2, 2020.

But as if the previous delay was not enough, Guyanese were forced to wait another five months before the results could finally be declared by GECOM on August 2, 2020, after local and international pressure.

In the aftermath of the controversial five-month long elections, a number of high ranking GECOM officials have been investigated by the police and charged for misconduct in public office and forgery.