DPP likely to quash charge against GECOM quartet

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GECOM, Commissioner, Vincent Alexander

THE privately-filed conspiracy charge against the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and three commissioners has no merit and the Director of Public Prosecutions is likely to throw it out, a top legal source has said.

The opposition- People’s Progressive Party- had made similar attempts last year when it filed private charges against several government ministers, only for the DPP to step in and dismiss them. Vincent Alexander who is one of the commissioners said the charge, not only lacks merit, but also it is a deliberate effort to thwart the work of the Commission. On Tuesday, GECOM’s Chairman, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson and Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Desmond Trotman and Charles Corbin were charged with “conspiracy to breach the Constitution of Guyana, contrary to the Common Law”.

The private criminal charge was filed at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court by Attorney Sanjeev Datadin on behalf of Civil Engineer and activist, Marcel Gaskin. The particulars of the offence stated that the GECOM members, from December 22, 2018 to March 9, 2019, conspired to breach Article 106 of the Constitution which provides for the holding of General and Regional Elections within three months from December 21, 2018.

The charge echoes the current accusations of Opposition-nominated Commissioners who have contrasting opinions with the aforementioned Commissioners. However, when the Guyana Chronicle contacted Alexander on Wednesday, he summed up the charge as baseless. “I don’t think the charge has any merit. I think it’s a part of the ‘silly season’ kind of behavior we have in Guyana. I have absolutely no fear whatsoever,” Alexander said.
It was observed that the charge takes into focus the period of December 22, 2018 to March 9, 2019 as to when the “conspiracy” against the holding of elections took place, yet the time period falls short of the three-month deadline as stipulated within Article 106 of the Constitution.

Alexander’s focus, nonetheless, was that for the charge to be justifiable it must first be supported by facts. “They are charging us for conspiracy; my understanding of criminal matters is that two things have to happen. You’ve got to be able to identify that ‘actus reus’ occurred –the actual fact of conspiracy occurred—and ‘mens rea’—that there was conscious intent to do this,” Alexander said.

“Now, I would really like to know when the act occurred because we haven’t gotten to that date as yet and, secondly, where is the evidence of us consciously engaging in an exercise to thwart the Constitution when it is not our responsibility to determine the date? Our responsibility is merely to indicate our state of readiness and to execute an election date from the date that is given by the President.”

Some of what the Commissioners have been advocating for since the passing of the no-confidence motion include the holding of the $3B budgeted for house-to-house registration. The exercise was granted funding by the Government prior to the no-confidence motion and will not only clear the current bloated list of dead persons but ensure that youths now eligible to vote are afforded the opportunity.

“We’re trying our best to ensure that GECOM fulfills its mandate and that is that GECOM puts itself in a position to deliver credible elections,” Alexander said.

“All that we have requested are not things that GECOM itself has not previously requested. So we’re not putting anything new on the table; we’re putting on the table the things that GECOM has agreed in the past should be done.”

Indeed, both sides of the table, including government and opposition, have agreed that the current list is highly flawed but the latter now pushes for elections by April 30, 2019 prior to when the very list expires.

Commissioners Alexander, Corbin and Trotman have referred to the present contradiction as Opposition’s engagement in a political game rather than holding the best interest of citizens as a priority. “I think that we’re in the political silly season. I think that there’s an effort to thwart GECOM from making decisions and that effort is also intended to, in a sense, engineer a crisis from which probably some set of people think they could benefit,” Alexander said.

Meanwhile, as charge of conspiracy to breach the constitution arises, Tuesday marked the third consecutive time that Opposition-nominated Commissioners have staged a walkout from the Commission’s meeting, thus hindering the commission’s work. Their deliberate efforts come as President David Granger awaits the provision of the work programme detailing the shortest time in which credible elections can be held so that an election date can be determined.

The matter is expected to be heard on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Court 1 even as talks are that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) could step in to discontinue the charge as an option for such private cases.