Norton agrees to hand over APNU+AFC SoPs during debate with VP Jagdeo

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Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

A night at a European Day cocktail reception saw Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton committing to having a public debate – once Norton agrees to hand over the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Statements of Poll (SoPs) from the 2020 elections.

The Vice President and Opposition Leader engaged in an animated informal discussion at the cocktail reception, hosted at the Black Magenta (Georgetown Club), during which they discussed the 2020 elections and Norton challenged Jagdeo to the debate.

“If you accept the observation report, I would bring the Statements of Poll. Did you agree to Order 60? In that law, did it not state the process? Did the process go through? Those are the questions. Whenever you’re ready, I’m prepared to debate you in public, with a proper moderator,” Norton said.

While Jagdeo said he is willing to debate Norton, he made it clear that he would only do so if Norton provides his party’s 2020 Statements of Poll. Norton agreed to hand over the Statements of Poll at the end of the debate.

Last year, as part of the probe into former Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, Statements of Poll for the country’s largest voting district, Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) were handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

This came after acting Chief Justice Roxane George ordered the release of the documents to the Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to facilitate the Police investigations.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, and then Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie had filed an application requesting certified copies of the SoPs and Statements of Recount (SoRs). However, Lowenfield had staunchly opposed their release.

Following the conclusion of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections which were embroiled in controversy, Lowenfield was among several high-ranking GECOM officials who were investigated and placed before the courts.

Lowenfield was also charged with forgery for allegedly uttering forged documents on two occasions purporting to show that they were a true report of all the votes cast at the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.

Lowenfield’s report to GECOM had claimed that the APNU/AFC coalition garnered 171,825 votes while the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) gained 166,343 votes. How he arrived at those figures is still unknown.

The certified results from the recount exercise supervised by GECOM and a high-level team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) pellucidly showed that the PPP/C won with 233,336 votes while the coalition garnered 217,920.

The recount exercise also proved that former Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo heavily inflated the figures in Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district – in favour of the then caretaker APNU/AFC regime.

While APNU/AFC initially claimed that their SoPs showed them winning the elections, they have always refused to show their SoPs publicly – further confirming that they are aware they lost the elections.

Mingo stands accused of failing to follow the stipulated process of adding up the SoPs for his District, while Lowenfield is accused of aiding in his noncompliance. Lowenfield is accused of also breaching his functions when he neglected to provide proper and lawful directions, instructions and guidance to the officers and employees of the Secretariat in the performance of their statutory duties during the process of the adding up of the votes recorded in the SoPs for Electoral District Four.

The CEO is also accused of deliberately choosing to neglect the complaints of discrepancies in relation to Mingo’s numbers, in spite of protests from contesting parties other than the APNU/AFC. He is also accused of failing to adhere to a court order, issued by acting Chief Justice Roxane George, to prevent him from declaring the results of the election until Section 84 of RoPA has been complied with.

Rather, Lowenfield has been accused of preparing a final report pursuant to Section 99 of RoPA containing all of the unverified votes as declared by Mingo, ultimately declaring the APNU/AFC as the winners of the elections.