–with swearing in of commissioners
A THOROUGH investigation into the protracted March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections will soon get underway, as three commissioners who will preside over the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), were, on Tuesday, sworn in by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
Those sworn in during a ceremony at the Office of the President were retired Justice of Appeal, Stanley John, who will chair the CoI; Attorney-General, High Court Judge and acting Justice of Appeal in the Eastern Caribbean, Godfrey P. Smith, S.C., and former Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Carl Singh OR CCH.
The fourth member, former Chair and Chief Elections Commissioner of India, Dr S.Y. Quraishi, was not sworn in on Tuesday.
To assist the commission with its work, Dr Afari Jayan and Dr Nasim Zaidi have been identified as resource personnel.
The members of the CoI are expected to examine the post-polling day period, when there was alleged interference in the process by the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) and persons purportedly associated with the coalition.
The inquiry is also expected to provide a foundation upon which the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) could repair the electoral system.
Additionally, the findings will be used to hold persons accountable, especially if they are found to have been involved in illegal activities.
Following the ceremony, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., said progress on this front is the fulfilment of a promise made by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, to investigate the protracted elections.
“At the March 2, 2020, elections, we saw, the world saw, you all saw flagrant attempts made to alter, unlawfully, the results of those elections at several stages of the process, even using or trying to use the judiciary to aid and abet the unlawful subversion of the will of the people,” he said.
The Attorney General related that the CoI will expose the “illegality and the conspiratorial role” played by those culpable and will be part of the permanent records of Guyana.
“There must never be a recurrence of what transpired at those elections. We have a sordid history in terms of election rigging, and we have to move beyond that. We owe that to the next generation of Guyanese,” Nandlall said.
He added that, while such CoIs are not a “cheap undertaking,” monetary value alone cannot determine the importance of the much-needed commission.
“Guyana’s social system and its population were virtually destroyed by virtue of rigged elections. So, a monetary cost ought not to be the basis for not pursuing this undertaking. This is far more important than a quantifiable financial cost,” Nandlall said.
Guyanese, after casting their votes on March 2, 2020, had to endure an unimaginable wait for the results of the General and Regional Elections, as they witnessed alleged unlawful acts and a slew of legal challenges.
During this time, the patience of the electorate was tested, as electors observed what was described as attempts by the then APNU+AFC administration to rip the democratic fabric of the nation, with “delay tactics” which were openly criticised by a wide section of society.
It was only after the legal challenges and international intervention that a national recount of all votes cast was convened and the figures showed that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) received 233,336 votes, while the APNU+AFC Coalition got 217,920 votes.
Former District Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo; former People’s National Congress/Reform Chairperson, Volda Lawrence; PNC/R activist, Carol Smith-Joseph and four others are currently before the courts for electoral fraud.