DURING the 2020 General and Regional Elections, Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Retired Justice Claudette Singh had made a total of six attempts to obtain the elections report from then Chief Election Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, but he refused and this led to a slew of legal challenges.
When Justice Singh took to the stand on Thursday before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the events during the 2020 elections, she told the commission that the former CEO continued to defy her orders to prepare a report using the results from the national recount exercise.
The commissioner heard that Lowenfield allegedly either submitted the incorrect elections report (that is, not based on the national recount) or just outright did not submit a report to GECOM so that a winner could have been declared.
On March 14, the Chief Elections Officer submitted elections report to the GECOM Chairman on the basis of declarations made by the Returning Officers in the 10 Electoral Districts, in accordance with Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.
However, those declarations and the elections report were placed in abeyance to pave way for a national recount after allegations of electoral fraud had erupted during the tabulation of results in District Four.
In June 2020, the recount was completed and it showed a PPP/C victory.
However, Lowenfield, in his first elections report, stated that he could not determine the credibility of all votes. As such, he invalidated thousands of votes, giving the APNU+AFC a supposed “victory.”
The chairperson said that Lowenfield, on June 18, 2020, visited her office and she requested that he attend a meeting with the commissioners during which he will present the report. However, she said that Lowenfield did not attend the meeting nor did he submit the report.
The chairperson told the CoI that on June 23, 2020, Lowenfield submitted another report which invalidated credible votes which were counted by GECOM returning officers.
“I received a report from him and he said he was guided by the decision of Esyln David (a private citizen who had challenged the credibility of the recount.) He brought me a report where he spoke to valid and credible votes that were based on the Court of Appeal decision and he invalidated about 100,000 votes,” Justice Singh said.
This matter was then taken to the CCJ, which later invalidated Lowenfield’s move to discard votes, and elucidated what constituted a “valid” vote.
She added that on June 26, 2020, Lowenfield submitted another report with inflated data and claimed that he acted “constitutionally.”
On July 9, 2020, Justice Singh said that she wrote the CEO requesting that he submit the report, but this time he wrote a letter asking her for verification of her orders.
However, she reaffirmed that he must submit the report.
On July 11, 2020, the CEO submitted another report which contained inaccurate data, which the chairperson did not , since the recount was already underway.
The witness further told the CoI that another court challenge had stalled the process.
This challenge was filed by Misenga Jones on July 14, 2020, who had approached the courts aiming to deter the swearing-in of a PPP/C government.
“They were asking the court whether I can instruct the CEO to bring a report. I told him the report must be based on the recount figures,” Justice Singh said.
This application was dismissed and was appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal then ruled on Jones’ petition and determined the recount was legitimate and should be used to declare the winner of the elections.
Furthermore, it was highlighted that the CEO’s actions should not stall the declaration any longer as he was not a “lone ranger.”
Justice Singh said that based on the court’s ruling, the CEO eventually provided the commission with a report on August 2, 2020, in which a declaration of Dr Irfaan Ali as the Ninth Executive President of Guyana and his swearing-in happened on the same day.
It was based on those revelations that Lowenfield, his deputy, Roxanne Myers and former District Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo had their employment terminated by the commission.
Lowenfield and Myers have also been charged with electoral fraud and are before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
It is alleged that they inflated or facilitated the inflation of results for Region Four, the country’s largest voting district, to give the APNU+AFC Coalition a majority win at the polls when, in fact, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had won by 15,000 votes.
Mingo, former People’s National Congress/Reform Chairperson, Volda Lawrence; PNC/R activist, Carol Smith-Joseph, and GECOM employees Sherfern February, Enrique Livan, Denise Bobb-Cummings and Michelle Miller are also before the court for allegedly defrauding the electors of Guyana.