— alleges Jagdeo
DURING the recount of the March 2 General and Regional Elections, then President, David Granger reportedly tapped the phones of his comrades – Volda Lawrence, Joseph Harmon and Raphael Trotman – according to Vice-President, Bharrat Jagdeo. In an interview with the Newsroom’s Insider programme on Friday, Jagdeo reflected on the 2020 elections which he said saw a blatant attempt, by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), to sabotage not only the elections, but the recount of the votes as well.
“We discovered, after we got into office, that President Granger may not have trusted the leadership of APNU…. He (Granger) got the security forces to tap the phone of Harmon, Trotman and Volda Lawrence,” Jagdeo said. He hinted that even though the then President Granger had approved the recount, there were “hundreds of behind the scenes” issues that served as attempts to prevent the effective execution of the exercise.
“We probably didn’t sleep for 24 hours (some days),” Jagdeo said in the interview.
Referring to Granger as an “aloof” leader, Jagdeo believes the trio – Lawrence, Harmon and Trotman – were particularly worried about the recount of the votes cast on March 2, 2020.
As it is, there have been numerous reports of a split in the APNU; more specifically, it has been alleged that there are efforts to remove Granger from the helm of the party, owing to claims of him being a “dictatorial” leader. More notably, it was alleged that several executives of the People’s National Congress (PNC) had been working on No-Confidence Motions geared at removing Granger from his leadership position. These claims have since been rubbished by the PNC, which claimed that the party is as solid as it has ever been.
NOTHING TO HIDE
Jagdeo, a former President, reminded that when allegations relating to the integrity of the votes were raised, the then President (Granger) expressed claims relating to the integrity of the votes cast in Regions Three, Four and Five. To this end, Jagdeo said that the People’s Progressive Party /Civic agreed to a full recount of all of the votes since the then Opposition “had nothing to hide”. Jagdeo said that even though the international community had concerns relating to the integrity of the votes cast, the observers were not prepared to recognise the PPP/C as winners of the elections; at least not until it was
officially declared via a recount. “They knew of the rigging, but they [the international observers] had not looked at the real SoPs [Statement of Polls] as yet,” Jagdeo said. Since the elections, several persons have been charged for their roles in the alleged electoral fraud. Chief among them is the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield; his deputy, Roxanne Myers; and the District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo.
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.
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 and 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, 2020 polls, when in fact the PPP/C had won by 15,000 votes. Based on the events of the 2020 elections, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, has insisted that it is not wise for Guyana to have any other elections over which Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo are allowed to preside. It is for this reason that the Head of State has refrained from announcing a date for the country’s Local Government Elections, even though $1.1 billion has already been budgeted in 2021 for this purpose.
STILL ON THE JOB
It has been almost 17 months since the embattled three have been accused of attempting to thwart the outcome of the elections. Despite being criminally charged on various counts of electoral fraud allegedly committed during the March 2, General and Regional Elections, Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo remain at their post at GECOM. It was in June, more than a year after the elections, that the PPP/C-nominated commissioners tabled the three motions seeking the “immediate dismissal” of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo. Initially, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) GECOM Commissioners had filed three separate motions which sought to have the embattled trio dismissed from their respective positions at GECOM. However, as the hearing on these motions continued to face delays, the PPP/C commissioners sought to have them amended to also consider the termination of contracts, which is catered for in the employment agreements of all three employees.
PPP/C Commissioner and Attorney-at-Law, Bibi Shadick, had previously explained that, with the amendments, GECOM has been presented with more options of ridding itself of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo. “We are not removing the option of dismissal; we are doing this as an alternative to say that if the Commission does not find [grounds] to dismiss [Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo], then there is the possibility of terminating their contracts,” Shadick told the Guyana Chronicle during a previous interview. She further opined that, based on all the evidence that is currently before it, “The Commission can very well choose to dismiss” the trio. Reflecting on the motions piloted by herself and PPP/C colleagues, Sase Gunraj and Manoj Narayan, Shadick said that the submissions call for Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo to be summarily dismissed, based on the fact that they are statutory officers who were guilty of breaching the law.
Shadick reminded that should the officers be dismissed, they would still be afforded the opportunity of seeking legal recourse, “because there are legal remedies available to them”.
Nonetheless, should GECOM pursue the termination of their contacts instead of having them dismissed, the three officers could still stand to benefit, or, as Shadick termed it, “be rewarded for bad behaviour,” since they could have their contracts terminated, and still be able to capitalise on the payments offered in lieu of notice.
The attorney-at-law noted, however, that once one’s contract is terminated, one’s legal options would be significantly limited, since the option is clearly outlined in the contract, and “an employer cannot be forced into hiring an employee” it does not want to hire. “At the end of the day, though, our goal is that they [Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo] must not work in the secretariat of GECOM anymore.
Either option will achieve that result,” Shadick said. She reminded also, that following the filing of the dismissal motions, Lowenfield had moved to the courts to prevent her and her colleague Sase Gunraj from debating and voting on the issue, since it was the latter who had brought the motion, and she who had seconded it. During GECOM’s previous meeting, the opposition-nominated commissioners had walked out of the engagement in support of Lowenfield’s arguments. On the other hand, Shadick, a former PPP/C government minister rubbished Lowenfield’s arguments, referencing the fact that the National Assembly allowed a member to move, debate and vote on motions. “That is how it is,” Shadick insisted. It must be noted, however, that due to the construct of GECOM, which has three nominated commissioners representing each of the two major political parties, the ultimate success of the motions rests on the vote of GECOM’s Chairperson, who, in this case, is Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh.