–GECOM Chair tells Elections COI
WHILE the plan to rig the 2020 Regional and General Elections by corrupt staffers of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) unfolded, the head of the election body, retired judge Justice Claudette Singh became fearful for her life.
Chairman of GECOM recounted the horrifying events that unfolded at the Ashmin’s Building, the GECOM command centre for the March 2020 Regional and General Elections, when she was called to the stand for the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the 2020 elections.
The Ashmin’s Building at Hadfield and High Streets in Georgetown also housed the District Four operations, and heading the operation was Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo. Justice Singh recalled that on March 5, 2022, Mingo attempted to make a false declaration from the stairway connecting the ground floor to the first floor of the building.
The Chairman said that Mingo had attempted to make the declaration from data derived from spreadsheets, which the Commission had never authorised. She said that she was not aware that the tabulation for District Four had concluded, as she thought that “it was still going on”.
Justice Singh said that she was later informed by APNU+AFC Election Commissioner Charles Corbin that she could not “interfere” with Mingo’s work.
Mingo’s declaration was met with objection by politicians, and this caused police officers to block the stairway to the second floor where the Chairman was located.
Previously, several witnesses had testified that the room, which was locked, was guarded by heavily armed police officers. The Chairman had complained of feeling unwell, but the ranks barred the EMTs from entering the room.
The witnesses recalled that the door was so secure that they had to “push” and “kick” it until it broke open.
“I felt a bit dizzy; I wasn’t feeling well. There were so many things on my mind; I was actually shaking, because, you see, with the declaration and then…there were so many events… There were so many things on my mind, and I wanted to know what the next step was.
“So I just couldn’t be bothered with anybody; I went up there just to have a quiet moment. In fact, my security was calling on me to leave, but I said no; I will spend some time in a quiet moment here and just reflect on everything. I didn’t want to speak with anyone,” Justice Singh said.
She added that upon hearing the footsteps and the breaking of the door, she “panicked” and became afraid.
Justice Singh said she called then Minister of Social Cohesion and General Secretary of the APNU+AFC Coalition Amna Ally because she was afraid for her life.
“She (Ally) told me she would be calling someone,” the witness told the COI.
When asked by Senior Counsel Sophia Chote, of Trinidad and Tobago, if she was aware that that person thought that she was being held captive in the room, Justice Singh said she was not aware that that was the situation at first.
“I wasn’t so aware, but then afterwards, I realised that when I saw who were the persons trying to get in, and they would not harm me. The first thing they asked me was if I was alright, and I said yes. And then (they) looked like they had some relief,” she added.
She said that while in the room, she was not taking any phone-calls or messages because she wanted “a quiet moment”.
“I was receiving a lot of calls, but I couldn’t talk to anyone, and didn’t feel to talk with anyone. I didn’t know who to trust; I just wanted to be alone,” Justice Singh said.
She recalled the incident of the alleged bomb threat to the building. However, the Chairman said that she did not leave the building, because she believed the threats were fake.
“I believed it was just a prank… I was later told nothing was found… that the building was clear,” she said.
Previously, Deputy Superintendent Elston Baird had testified before the COI that there was no evidence of an actual bomb planted at the building.
Baird, who is the Head of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), had said that based on the records, there was no evidence of a bomb at the command centre.
Justice Singh was later questioned by the CoI’s Chairman, Stanley John and commissioners — former Chancellor, Carl Singh and Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith as they seem dissatisfied about her actions to lock herself in the room, especially when she said that “she could not be bothered”
“I find that a little odd… But you say you couldn’t be bothered, I have to ask, you were the chair in the middle of a very serious situation. I simply want to know at what point did you call the other commissioner and say ‘I’m feeling stressed, let’s speak together and weather the storm. Did this occur to you?” Commissioner Smith said to the Chairman.
“I went upstairs because I was stressed. And that’s it. It’s my personal moment; I wasn’t speaking about Commission work or anything. It was Personal. I said I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t know; I just wanted that quiet moment, and I heard all this noise, and I was afraid for my life,” she replied.