COME Monday, June 28, 2021, Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM’s) Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield; Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers, and the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, will proceed on their respective annual leave.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) nominated GECOM Commissioners, Sase Gunraj, Manoj Narayan and Bibi Shadick, tabled three motions, dated June 1, 2021, seeking the “immediate dismissal” of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo. They had cited a gamut of reasons pertaining to breach of functions, duties, responsibilities and obligations, to support the motions filed.
Speaking to the media, Gunraj explained that when the motions are called up on Tuesday, the Opposition nominated commissioners raised objections pertaining to the debate of the motions. He explained that they cited reasons including that GECOM ought not to deliberate on the motions given that the persons who tabled the motions are also tasked with the responsibility of discussing and determining it.
“They also suggested that an independent tribunal or some tribunal be set up to deal with it – some tribunal to determine and hear the issues outside of the Commission,” Gunraj said.
However, the PPP/C Commissioners submitted that GECOM, by virtue of its constitutional mandate, is responsible for the hiring, firing, disciplining and overall management of its staff, and as a consequence is specifically tasked and authorised to hear and determine the motions for the trio’s dismissal.
“After much back and forth discussions, the Chairman reserved her ruling on it, but, more importantly, the Chairman has made a decision
which was taken very consensually by the commissioners that the three officers be sent on their annual leave,” Gunraj said.
He hopes for a timely ruling by the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh, pertaining to the ability of the Commission to hear the motions, and he is optimistic that the motions will be heard by the Commission as to his reckoning every authority indicates that the Commission has the authority and ability to hear and determine the motions.
“My reading from the Constitution and the articles of the Constitution from which GECOM derives its power does not suggest that we have the power to delegate those functions,” Gunraj said.
The GECOM trio came in for harsh criticism from the public at large for their alleged conduct at the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections. They have since been charged, and are currently before the courts.
Lowenfield is faced with three counts of Misconduct in Public Office, and three counts of Forgery; while Mingo was charged with four counts of Misconduct in Public Office, and Myers with two counts of Misconduct in Public Office.
Gunraj explained that “courts upon courts” have pronounced upon the actions of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo during the shenanigans that followed the March, 2020 Elections Day and have determined the “egregious nature” of their actions.
With some $1.1 billion budgeted for in the 2021 Budget towards the hosting of Guyana’s Local Government Elections (LGE) – intended to be held this year, several government officials have chastised the trio and have registered their concern about going to elections with them at the helm of GECOM.
“The public posture and the public confidence of GECOM depend on the removal of these persons. The public confidence of stakeholders and of the general electorate is at an all-time low because of the actions of these persons,” Gunraj said as he disclosed that the Chairperson did not make a decision on the date a decision on the matter will be given.
According to a press release from GECOM, Lowenfield will proceed on 42 days annual leave, Myers will be on 120 days leave and Mingo will be on 35 days leave and the Commission intends to conclude the discussions within the shortest possible time.
In addition to Lowenfield, Mingo and Myers, Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Volda Lawrence; Opposition activist, Carol Joseph; the CEO’s clerks, Michelle Miller, Denise Bob-Cummings; Elections Officer, Shefern February and Information Technology Officer, Enrique Livan were also charged.
They are all accused of inflating the results of Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district – to give the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition a majority win at the March 2 polls when in fact, the PPP/C had won by 15,000 votes.