— political parties split on GECOM’s investigative powers
COMMISSIONER of Police, Leslie James, as requested, has provided Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh with the immigration information on a list of individuals whom the APNU+AFC claims could not have voted on E-Day because they were overseas.
Justice Singh had requested this information of the Police Commissioner on May 22, 2020, by way of letter.
“The APNU/AFC is alleging that persons whose names and date of birth appear on the list attached had migrated and could not have exercised their franchise on March 2, 2020. In this regard, I shall be grateful if you will be so kind as to cause the Immigration Department to verify whether these persons were out of the country on March 2, 2020. The respective polling divisions and stations where these persons allegedly voted are also identified on the list. The Commission would wish this matter to be urgently addressed,” the letter stated.
Though now provided, political parties are still divided on whether GECOM has the legal right to conduct such investigations.
APNU+AFC Campaign Manager, Joseph Harmon, has noted that his party has sent 11 letters in the last few days to GECOM pointing out cases of irregularities uncovered during the recount process. On Friday, he made it clear that there is a mountain of alleged cases of electoral fraud and Guyanese demand answers. As of May 31, the party said that it has examined 1,144 ballot boxes finding 4,122 irregularities which amount to 221, 244 votes being affected.
“We cannot sail calmly into the end of the recount while our concerns go unanswered, and a massive fraudulent operation was carried out on the electoral process; an operation which is systemic and pervasive,” he said.
However, in a press release on Sunday evening, the PPP/C said that any information provided by the Commissioner of Police is compromised and would sway in the favour of the Government.
The party maintained: “GECOM has no jurisdiction to hear and determine these matters which can only be addressed by the High Court in an election petition.” Even so, it said that it is not afraid of any investigation or inquiry of any type and is, in fact, ready to participate in any such activity “at the appropriate time and at the right forum”. The PPP/C has requested a meeting with the Chair to ventilate its concerns.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Lennox Shuman, also said that, based on the legal advice his party has received, GECOM does not have the powers to undertake such an exercise.
He stated that there is some amount of conflict of interest in the Commission’s reaching out to the Immigration Department as this comes under the Minister of Citizenship who is a member of the APNU+AFC.
Similar to a Letter to the Editor written by PPP/C’s Charles Ramson Jnr., Shuman put forward that a person can leave Guyana via its international airports but re-enter via “back track” through neighbouring countries.
He also stated that the LJP does not have confidence in the ability of the Commissioner of Police or Immigration Department to remain impartial. “They have not given us the confidence that they are going to conduct themselves with integrity,” he said.
Shuman believes that it is concerning that the Commission has opted to launch an investigation into the claims of the APNU+AFC of illegal voting but have failed to address matters regarding the “inflated” results declared by Region Four Returning Officer (RO), Clairmont Mingo.
He maintained that any investigation into electoral irregularities must come from an elections petition. He said small parties have jointly requested a meeting with the GECOM Chair since last week but is yet to receive information on when such this will be held.
Apart from this, Shuman said that he is pleased that the recount is moving much smoother and, at this rate, should be completed by June 9, 2020.