GECOM Chair, Ret’d Justice Claudette Singh is expected to follow the law and use the recount to declare the results by the weekend. She has come under critiques and scandalous attacks (including social media) over her (what some describe as) management (and supervision) of the counting and recounting of ballots and her instruction to the CEO Lowenfield on a declaration of the final results. These attacks will not deter the Chair from being herself and following the law. She is a strong woman who would instruct the CEO to use the right numbers in the recount to bring closure to the election.
Claudette (naively) trusted certain staff and Commissioners who are not impartial and professional and apparently misled her. These scathing critiques, criticism, and attacks are unsubstantiated and should be ignored. The Chair deserves praise for her work. It is not easy managing a divided Commission of 3 Government and 3 Opposition Commissioners, each side competing for support of their position. She has been eminently fair at every stage of the process. At each stage of the electoral process, she looked at both sides of the equation and made the right decision that allowed the election, count and recount to occur. At times, she went out of her way to be fair, unbiased, and objective. She has been courageous to straddle a middle road by following the law. And she seemingly takes a position that dots every i and crosses every t.
It is true the Chair could have ordered Mingo to end the fraud on March 4. But one is not certain of the duress under which the Chair found herself that day and the next week. But since then, the Chair has functioned impartially and professionally especially when complaints of the fraudulent count were brought to her attention and where she recognised the law was violated. She has been consistent in upholding the law. Along this line, I am confident that the Chair would act expeditiously to bring the declaration of the results to an end right after the CCJ ruling regardless of how the apex court rules. The recount order cannot be violated. Otherwise, it would lead to sanctions on GECOM staff, politicians, and the business community for aiding and abetting fraud.
It is human to make errors. Election trained lawyers I spoke with point out that minor errors were made in the management of the count and the instruction given to Lowenfield to prepare the statement of final declaration. The leniency and tolerance of the Chair allowed Lowenfield to execute his skullduggery to favour one side. The Chair was earlier taken advantage of by Mingo and a few Commissioners. But they must not underestimate the resolve of the Chair to follow the law and the order of the recount.
The Chair now has an opportunity to correct previous errors as well as to take a neutral, lawful position in bringing the process to closure. She must act firmly and sternly in dealing with Lowenfield and the Commissioners – the recount is lawful and is complete. It is time for a declaration of the results. This would end media critiques of her actions resulting in the nation seeing her as a heroine protecting Guyana’s democracy and free and fair election.
The Chair gave a general, as opposed to a specific, directive to the CEO on the data to be used to prepare the final declaration. She must send him an addendum and which tables to use for the declaration. The CEO cannot produce an opinionated result. As argued by observers and according to ROPA, it must be based on the Caricom-monitored publicised recount (of valid votes) that was also approved by the Chair and a majority of the Commission (4 of 7 members).
The Chair has an opportunity to correct past errors and retrieve the electoral situation. The country expects her to now do the right thing and declare the right winner as per the recount. So far, she has followed the letter and spirit of the law. The Chair must continue to follow the law after the CCJ ruling and not be influenced by critiques, attacks, threats, and emotions. That is why she is called the Iron Lady and is seen by many as the mother of democracy. She will build her reputation by acting decisively and courageously.
The whole world is now looking at what the Chair would do to address expected defiance from the CEO. She must follow the law. Her decision must be one of justice and fair play. Her decision and instruction to the CEO for a final declaration must fit the circumstances of over four months of unnecessary delay that must serve the interest of justice and be guided by the Caricom-monitored recount. Such an action will be consistent with her following the law. And if she acts accordingly, her poll numbers would be stratospheric.
Dr Vishnu Bisram