With 2021 winding down: GECOM yet to begin talks on hosting of LGE

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The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has not yet initiated discussions on the hosting of Local Government Elections (LGE) even as the year comes to an end.

LGE was last held on November 12, 2018 and is due this year.

However, GECOM’s discussions this year have largely been consumed with the removal of senior functionaries at the secretariat who were implicated in electoral fraud at the 2020 General and Regional elections.

After those personnel were removed last month, GECOM’s discussions shifted to filling those critical positions. In fact, it was only on Tuesday at the statutory meeting that the commission finally finalised the advertisements for these positions.

When questioned, a well-placed source at GECOM explained that the Commission has not commenced discussions on conducting the local elections. The source also noted that organising such elections would be problematic when the current vacancies and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are considered.

“I don’t see, in this climate that Guyana has right now, with COVID being what it is, any election could be held. You can’t have people campaigning and calling people together… I think the COVID people would be well within their rights to say we can’t do this,” the source noted, adding that postponing the elections may necessitate the intervention of Parliament.

However, the advertisements in question will fill the vacancies caused by the removals of former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, his former deputy CEO Roxanne Myers and former Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.

After several delays and legal proceedings, Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo were on August 12 dismissed from their respective posts at the GECOM following a vote by the seven-member Commission.

In a statement announcing the terminations, which she said came after weeks of deliberation on the motions, the GECOM Chair had indicated that the services of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo would be terminated effective August 18, 2021, and they would be compensated in accordance with provisions in their contracts.

To this end, Justice Singh disclosed that CEO Lowenfield was dismissed via Clause 9 of his contract, which stipulates that his services can be terminated by giving him three months’ notice, or payment in lieu thereof.

Regarding the DCEO and the RO, their contracts similarly state that the Commission may, at any time, terminate their employment by giving them three months’ notice or payment in lieu thereof.

Government-nominated Commissioners, Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan, had brought motions on June 1, 2021 calling for the dismissal of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo from GECOM.

The trio are before the courts for a number of electoral charges for their alleged attempts to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then ruling A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government.