…says too many questions left unanswered
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo has written Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairwoman Claudette Singh urging her to assert her authority to ensure the recount of votes is a transparent, timely, fraud-free one.
The letter, which was written on his behalf by party executive and lawyer Anil Nandlall, also upbraids her for the email she sent to her six Commissioners on Friday. In that email, she had announced that no more than 10 work stations would be used for the recount.
Absent from the email, however, was any mention of when the recount would start and for how long. Instead, such a serious decision was deferred to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the Head of the National Task Force. According to the party, this leaves a serious loophole to be exploited by those bent on rigging.
“You have also given no guidance on the issue of transparency, which is so vital to the integrity of the process. We reiterate that telecasting or live streaming of the process in its entirety will enhance the transparency of the process to a great extent. Additionally, you have made no recommendation [for] how the process would be effectively oversighted by the representatives of the political parties,” they also wrote.
Party agents insufficient
In the letter, it was pointed out that the mere presence of party agents is insufficient, as they must be able to scrutinise the tabulation process and the inputting of data to ensure that the correct total is calculated.
They noted that this would prevent what happened during the count of the Region Four votes, when Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo deviated from the Statements of Poll (SoPs) and began using a spreadsheet with numbers that did not match the SoPs.
“Your email has raised more questions than it provided answers, however, I must convey our profound disappointment [in you] ceding a large part of your responsibility in this exercise to some anomalous Task Force established by Nagamootoo. If at all, you should be informing that Task Force of your plans.”
“The world knows that Mr Nagamootoo is part of that cabal working assiduously to prevent the disclosure of the credible results of these elections because he stands to benefit by squatting longer in office. Consequently, he has a vested interest in ensuring the prolongation of this exercise.”
Questioning GECOM’s disregard for provisions in the Representation of the People Act despite her being a former Judge, the party urged that she re-examine their proposals and implement recommendations that will aid the timely conclusion of the exercise, rather than hinder it. This includes the removal of “politically toxic and tainted” persons from the Secretariat and their replacement by neutral staff.
On Friday Singh communicated to Commissioners that there should be no more than 10 work stations for the recount of the ballots cast countrywide during the March 2, General and Regional Elections.
The missive from Justice Singh noted that the dictate of no more than 10 working stations would be “subject to the availability of the requisite equipment and technology to display the ballots.” However, the Opposition – People’s Progressive Party/Civic – had proposed 20 work stations, which will take 10 days to complete the entire process.
Gunraj, along with fellow Commissioners Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn, had submitted a recount proposal to counter the one for a 156-day recount which was previously submitted by GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield.
According to their proposal, which caters for a 10-day recount using 20 work stations, their expectation is that those entitled to be there under Section 86 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03 will be catered for. Such persons include party agents and observers.
The plan specifies that each tabulation work station shall be comprised of authorised GECOM staff, as well as representatives from each of the contesting political parties and accredited observers, with the original Statement of Recount (SoR) being used to tabulate.
The GECOM Chairperson had indicated that each of the work stations to be used at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre should tabulate its own results and that for security reasons, all the work stations should be located inside the Conference Centre building.
Additionally, the GECOM Chairperson advised that she has written to the caretaker Prime Minister and Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force with some specific requests.
According to Justice Singh, “he has since indicated that an urgent meeting of the Task Force would be convened to discuss same and a response would be provided shortly.” It was unclear up to press time whether that meeting was convened.