–witness tells elections CoI
DETAILS of how some employees of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) participated in an alleged plot to divert votes to the APNU +AFC administration instead of safeguarding the electoral system, were heard during the second day of testimonies at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the conduct of the 2020 general and regional elections.
Over the course of his nearly five-hour long testimony on Monday, former executive member of A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Johnathan Yearwood, verbalised his recollection of the events that unfolded in the aftermath of the elections, placing strong focus on GECOM’s introduction of a mysterious flash drive during the tabulation of votes in Region Four.
Along with his written statement, Yearwood provided the CoI with photos and audio recordings of various incidents that he believes compromised the integrity of the 2020 elections.
Yearwood, who was present at the Office of the District 4 Returning Officer at the Ashmin’s building as a party representative, said that the tabulation process was plagued by constant interruptions.
He testified that on the evening of March, 4, 2020, the tabulation process suffered its first major interruption as the two women who were manning the process complained of being tired and hungry.
Yearwood recalled one of the women to be a deputy returning officer and another who was “visibly pregnant.” The women were allowed to refresh themselves. They then returned to continue the process.
According to Yearwood, their efforts were short-lived. He said that the two women soon said that they were extremely tired and simply could not continue to work.
As a result, it was announced that the process would have to be put to a halt until the following morning of March 5, but party agents protested with loud objections.
They were then told that in order for the process to continue a deputy returning officer needed to be on site since the appointed officer was leaving.
Yearwood said that some party agents offered to locate a deputy returning officer so that the process could be facilitated.
However, the then Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield intervened and committed to finding two staffers of GECOM to man the process.
A while after, Lowenfield made good on his promise. He introduced two other GECOM staffers to the process, neither of whom were deputy returning officers. IT technician Enrique Livan was now part of the process.
According to Yearwood, things went downhill from there, as Livan and the other unidentified GECOM staffer began entering figures that did not correspond with the figures reflected on the Statements of Polls (SOPs) in the possession of party agents.
According to Yearwood, Livan, who remains on the job, was relentless as he ignored all concerns raised by party agents.
Yearwood said that Livan eventually left the tabulation room and went into another room. He took a key device with him which was identified as a flash drive. Yearwood testified that, that device stored the tabulation figures.
The ANUG rep said that inquiries were made and Livan said the reason for leaving the tabulation room was his tiredness.
Yearwood said that Livan continued his shenanigans, placing his head on the desk and constantly ignoring concerns about his conduct.
Livan eventually returned to the tabulation room after he was seen tampering with the contents of the flash drive on a computer.
Yearwood testified that reps voiced their concerns.
“We told him that those are not the numbers we have… Basically we were just ignored and he tried to continue with their process,” he said.
Yearwood said that this sort of approach prevailed even after countless other concerns were raised.
He said that events took a turn for the worst when District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo attempted to make a declaration of the results. He said that two attempts of this sort were made despite the constant interruptions and accompanying disapprovals made by party agents.
Yearwood recalled that Mingo was not allowed to make a declaration owing to the efforts of party agents who disrupted that process. Tabulation stopped for a couple of days after the matter was taken to court.
Yearwood told the CoI of his experiences when the process restarted following a ruling by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George.
Yearwood said that in this scenario, the process could have hardly been considered tabulation and verification, as Mingo was basically forcing his figures on agents.
The process was moved to a shed in the yard of GECOM’s Kingston office. Yearwood told the CoI that a bed sheet and projector were used, but still the figures appearing on the sheet did not correspond with the SoPs in the possession of party agents.
Further, Yearwood said that a large piece of cloth which he insisted was a bed sheet, and the projector, allowed little visibility for observers and party agents and this, again, was a recipe for further clashes.
CAROL JOSEPH’S ABUSE OF OBSERVERS, DIPLOMATS
Yearwood said that observers and party agents alike expressed serious concern at that point. In response, APNU + AFC representative Carol Joseph became aggressive.
Yearwood said that he witnessed Joseph threaten an observer representing the Bar Association, Pauline Chase, to stomp her in the face and threatened Private Sector Representative Kit Nascimento, to spit in his face.
Yearwood recalled that Joseph told diplomats from the ABCE countries to “get the f– out of Guyana.”
Yearwood said that he was preparing to leave the premises when Joseph hurriedly made her way to him. He said that knowing of her previous threats, he defended himself, pushing her away and ended up in the lockups. He was not charged after he was able to present video attempts of what occurred.
Overall, Yearwood told the CoI that there were attempts by GECOM staffers at almost every step of the process to misrepresent the will of the people.