Last Updated on Wednesday, 2 June 2021, 22:46 by Denis Chabrol
Even as the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and two other senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are expected to show cause why they should not be dismissed immediately for alleged infractions during the 2020 general and regional elections, opposition coalition-aligned Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander said the move to fire them is racially motivated.
“This move is obviously a ploy that has been on their agenda for some time. It is not something new. I do not associate it with the elections. I think the elections is the moment that they are using
Mr. Alexander’s assertion came one day after the three People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated election commissioners tabled three motions for the immediate sacking of Mr. Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer Ms. Roxanne Myers and Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo. The motions came sharply on the heels of the High Court ordering the photocopying of the Statements of Poll and certifying them as “true” copies and handing over to the Police Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions to aid in their probe and prosecution in fraud and misconduct in public office charges against Messrs. Lowenfield and Mingo and Ms. Myers.
Mr. Alexander cited previous remarks about the predominantly Afro-Guyanese makeup of the GECOM staff by then pro-PPP Elections Commissioner Robeson Benn. “Ever since Commissioner Benn came to GECOM, he raised the question of the ethnic composition of the senior management and, for me, this is an attempt to address and, from their perspective, to redress the ethnic composition,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Benn, back in May 2018, had not singled out the senior management of GECOM but had referred to the makeup of GECOM entire staff as being “ninety or more percent’ Afro-Guyanese.
Instead, Mr. Alexander cast the blame on the current racial makeup of GECOM on the then Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodhoo under whose leadership three or four senior Indo-Guyanese workers had been removed for “various reasons.”
Mr. Alexander denied that GECOM’s system had been manipulated to get rid of senior Indo-Guyanese staff but they had been removed by Mr. Boodhoo and others had been employed based on merit. “The objective really could be regarded as one of ethnic cleansing and wants to put in place people who could give them greater control which they are not entitled to,” Mr. Alexander added.
The pro-A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Elections Commissioner back in August 2020 had taken the position that the Chief Elections Officer was the one who was legally empowered to decide what were valid votes and compile his report to the Commission. Mr. Alexander had also been in favour of the use of the 10 district declarations to declare the final declaration of results.
After court rulings and more than one instructions from the Chairman of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, eventually the figures from the Statements of Recount had been used to declare the PPP the winner of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. The recount figures were much closer to the declarations contained in the Statements of Poll, a number of parties had said.
International observer teams, the United States Britain, Canada and the European Union had all condemned the tabulation and declaration process for the Region Four results as well as figures that had been produced by the Chief Elections Officer that had would have seen APNU+AFC retaining power.
The coalition has, however, consistently accused the PPP of electoral fraud through the impersonation of dead persons and others who had been overseas on voting day as well as the absence of key documents to reconcile votes with the voters’ lists at polling stations.
The High Court has since dismissed two APNU+AFC election petitions, both of which the coalition said would be the subject of appeals.