‘He who asserts must prove’

Chair of GECOM, Justice (Ret'd) Claudette Singh

…GECOM chair urges parties to produce evidence of voting irregularities
…coalition said to have proof
…chair rebukes Sase Gunraj for misrepresenting her

CHAIR of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, on Thursday, said the body is yet to make a decision on how it will treat with complaints of irregularities at the March 2 polls, although insisting that “he who asserts must prove.”

Justice Singh made the comments in a statement issued by her office. Justice Singh said while issues surrounding the Observation Reports are engaging the attention of the Commission; no decision has been made. “In fact, although there was discussion, no decision was taken in this regard at the level of the Commission,” the GECOM Chair clarified.

She added: “While I continue to monitor the trends based on the allegations in the Observation Reports, I am of the view that he who asserts must prove.”

Justice Singh assured that when there are considerable deliberations and decisions at the Commission in relation to claims of anomalies, the outcome would be officially communicated to the political parties and other stakeholders, particularly the press.
Coalition says have proof

Meanwhile, the APNU-AFC coalition, at the outset of the recount, had announced that, in an organised manner, it will be highlighting, to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), evidence of persons who would have voted at the recent regional and general elections but who are known to be deceased or have migrated. This method includes death certificates and the migration records of these individuals —- documents which would serve as hard proof to the Commission which has requested same.

Elections Commissioner Sase Gunraj

For these persons in question, especially those alive, the Commission has asked that the party utilises the individual’s ballot serial number instead of their names.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, representing the APNU/AFC had told reporters at the recount venue: “We have a team in the background providing all the serial numbers to our agents before the boxes are open so that we can give them as much information as possible…we have death certificates, we have migration records, we have very reliable information.”

Gunraj chided
The GECOM chairman also, on Thursday, chided Commissioner Sase Gunraj for speaking on her behalf when he had no authority to do so. “I am perturbed by an article published online via websites and social media platforms as well as in the today’s (Thursday) edition of the Kaieteur News under the caption, ‘Justice Singh doesn’t think it’s GECOM’s role to probe claims of anomalies – Commissioner Sase Gunraj,’” Justice Singh said in statement.

On Wednesday, while engaging the press on the ongoing National Recount at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Commissioner Gunraj said that the Observation Reports, and their contents, are irrelevant to the end result of process – a position he attributed to the GECOM Chair – as he complained about the number of objections and claims of electoral fraud being made at the workstations by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC).

He then said: “The chairman said while the Observation Reports may or may not be considered at some time what is important arising out of this is the numbers, and I agree with her,” the Elections Commissioner told reporters but Justice Singh made it clear that Gunraj is not authorised to speak on her behalf.

Justice Singh’s statement sparked an immediate response and apology from Commissioner Gunraj. “Indeed, I am not authorised to speak for or on behalf of the Chairman. On the issue under review, I unwittingly erred. For that I apologise,” Gunraj said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Since the commencement of the National Recount on May 6, the APNU+AFC has filed a number of objections based on allegations that migrants and persons who are now deceased are marked on the Official List of Electors as having voted – much to the dissatisfaction of Gunraj and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). Though the ruling coalition has provided death certificates and other records to support its claims at the level of the workstations, Gunraj has repeatedly said that no such evidence was produced even as he maintained that the contents of the Observation Reports are matters for the Courts.

The official order, gazetted on May 4, provides for observations including anomalies and irregularities to be included in the Observation Reports. Commissioner Vincent Alexander has repeatedly said that many of the irregularities are grave and the Commission will deliberate on them during the course of the recount.

Another Elections Commissioner, Desmond Trotman, echoed similar sentiments in a previous interview, explaining that, based on his understanding, the GECOM Secretariat, upon completion of the recount, will summarise the observations recorded throughout the exercise and submit a report to the commission. Unlike Gunraj, Trotman said anomalies with merit ought to be investigated.

“The commission will have to investigate these allegations before the process ends because this process is not merely about a recount. It is intended also to find out if the elections itself were credible, and so you have to take all of those factors into consideration to make a determination about credibility,” Trotman told reporters.

However, while clarifying that while the commission has not decided on how it will treat with the Observation Reports, Trotman made it known that he will lobby for allegations with merit to be investigated.

“If it is that you are talking about credibility, if you want to ascertain if the elections were credible, once you have information supported by proof that something went on, that shouldn’t have taken place, you have to look at it,” he submitted.