GECOM has authority to probe electoral irregularities- AG

DPI, Guyana, Monday, May 25, 2020

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, SC has weighed in on the ongoing contention over the role of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in resolving the incidences of electoral fraud emanating from the ongoing national recount of the March 2, General and Regional Elections.

The Attorney General responded today to opposition member Anil Nandlall, who, along with other opposition officials, has been pushing the narrative that the probing of the electoral irregularities was outside the remit of GECOM and that the many objections being made by government counting agents are suited only for an elections petition.

The Attorney General maintained that it is for the Guyana Elections Commission to resolve the irregularities, discrepancies and anomalies contained in the Observations Reports.

He cited paragraph 16 of GECOM’s recount Order  which  provides that the “conduct of the recount process is for  “…the reconciliation of the ballots issued with the ballots cast, destroyed, spoiled, stamped, and as deemed necessary, their counterfoils/ stubs; the authenticity of the ballots and the number of voters listed and crossed out as having voted; the number of votes cast without ID cards; the number of proxies issued and the number utilised; statistical anomalies; occurrences recorded in the Poll Book.”

According to the AG, the provisions empower GECOM to not only count the ballots but also examine irregularities, discrepancies and anomalies to decide the credibility or lack thereof, of the March 2 polls.

Further, the Order provides for the use of the Observations Report Form to record any observation outside of the ballot box checklist; and under paragraph 12 the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) after tabulating the matrices of all electoral districts submits a report which includes the ORFs and the matrices of the ballot count for each district to the Commission.

“This shows a clear dichotomy between the ballot count and observations made during the recount process, confirming that it is not about the ballot count alone,” the AG stated in the letter.

Additionally, he said the Order makes it “pellucid” that it is the Commission who resolves any irregularity, discrepancy and anomaly occurring in the recount process as revealed in the report.

GECOM’s Chair, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh has already requested from the Coalition, evidence of the objections being made in the Observation Reports.

The government said it has evidence to support its objections over the names of deceased and persons who were overseas on March 2, turning up to cast ballots.

According to AG Williams, GECOM is well equipped with a Chairman who is eminently qualified to adjudicate in these matters.

“She could use her wealth of experience in determining issues of credibility by assessing weight, veracity and consistency of any evidence before the Commission and can call on the General Registrar’s Office for births and deaths records and the Immigration Department for immigration records to assist in the discharge of the Commission’s responsibilities under the rules in the Order governing the recount process.”

The Attorney General said once GECOM is acting in consonance with the foregoing provisions of its gazetted order, Nandlall’s contention that it is “now expanding the scope of this recounting exercise far outside its parameters and that it is wrong; it is unlawful”, must be rejected.

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