Former Junior Finance Minister under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Juan Edghill says the fact that embattled Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield was a beneficiary of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change’s massive land “giveaway” explains his recent actions favouring the caretaker coalition.
Of recent, the APNU/AFC Government has come under severe fire for what some say was a “mad rush” to allocate prime State lands to key officials and alleged supporters of the coalition since the December 2018 no-confidence vote – the period after which the Administration should have been in a caretaker mode until a new government was elected.
In fact, CEO Lowenfield has been one of the main beneficiaries of the land “giveaway” and according to Edghill, this explains the CEO’s recent controversial actions in which he dumped more than 115,000 valid votes and handed a ‘victory’ to the incumbent coalition, even though a national recount confirmed that the coalition has lost the elections.
“Mr Lowenfield as our Chief Elections Officer, after the passage of the no-confidence vote, [after] which we should have had elections within 90 days, became the beneficiary from the Government that had fallen, of two acres of prime residential land in a village called Mocha, and 100-plus acres of land at a place in Region 10 called Millie’s Hideout,” Edghill said during an interview on Thursday with St Lucia-based Choice News Now.
“Mr Lowenfield became the gazetted beneficiary of two sets of land. So that explains Mr Lowenfield’s relationship with the current government.”
Edghill reminded that this occurred under “a fallen government that had no authority to distribute land because of their caretaker status”.
Edghill, a PPP/C candidate, added that Lowenfield did everything within his power to delay the elections that should have been held within 90 days of the successful no-confidence motion by 14 months.
Providing viewers with a background to the current political impasse in Guyana following the March 2 General and Regional Elections, the former PPP/C MP summed it up by saying: “The reality is the APNU/AFC Government do not intend to come out of office.”
“So Mr Lowenfield got the District Four Returning Officer to make two declarations – one on March 5 and the other on March 13 – both of those declarations for Region Four had different numbers, and both times the numbers bear no resemblance to the official documents generated at each place of poll, which is called the Statement of Poll.”
Edghill explained that after much unease and protest from all the stakeholders in the country, this led to the national recount, which was certified by the Caricom Observer Team and which confirmed that the PPP/C won the elections.
GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh had directed Lowenfield to use the national elections recount figures certified by the Caricom Observer Team pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03 to compile his final report.
The CEO, however, did not comply with the Chair’s directive. He, instead, unilaterally invalidated over 115,000 votes and handed a ‘victory’ to the APNU/AFC.
Edghill’s colleague, Priya Manickchand, who was also a guest on the programme, explained that it was on this fraudulent basis that the coalition was hoping to remain in power.
Manickchand related that to date, Lowenfield has failed to provide any plausible explanation to justify his unilateral action – invalidating votes which were already deemed valid.
She detailed that on the night of the election, when all the votes were being counted, the valid votes were separated from those that were deemed invalid or rejected. She added that the process was done in the presence of all the parties’ agents as well as local and international observers.
“Valid votes were counted and invalid votes were put aside in an envelope; they were called rejected votes,” Manickchand said.
She further added that the same process was applied during the national recount, adding “only valid votes were counted and tabulated”.
Foreign powers have called on GECOM to declare the results of the elections on the basis of the certified figures emanating from the national recount.
The national recount, which was conducted under the scrutiny of a special Caricom team, shows the PPP/C in a landslide victory with some 15,416 more votes than its main political rival, the APNU/AFC coalition.