Several international observers and political parties on Friday walked out of the verification process for votes cast in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) on March 2, General and Regional Elections, calling the entire exercise a fallacy.
Several stakeholders that spoke to media operatives throughout the course of the day spoke to the fact that the only discrepancy appears to be the fact that votes have been inflated for the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC).
US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah Anny-Lynch, UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn; Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee and EU Ambassador Fernando Ponz-Canto could be seen visible dishevelled as they walked out of the Returning Officer’s office minutes after the process had commenced.
Change Guyana’s (CG) Chairman Nigel Hinds, was among the first to withdraw from the process, calling it a sham and outright thievery.
Media operatives were told that the exercise began with the RO, Clairmont Mingo, firstly agreeing to commence the exercise by starting from where it was left off prior to the court challenge.
Among the first requests, according to Hinds, was an opening balance of the votes cast for each party and this was not done at which point in time the APNU/AFC representative directed Mingo to proceed with a total restart.
“When this process started Mingo’s assistant read off from her purported SoP and in every instance, it was at variance with SoPs held by the different political parties and the singular variance was for the APNU votes which were doubled or tripled or inflated significantly,” Hinds said.
Hinds gave as example situations where the coalition would have recorded at 51 votes at a location, the new SoPs would have it recorded at 151 and that the votes for each of the other parties would sync with the copies of SoPs held by parties or publicly available.
He told reporters “what you have here is an open hijack of the election process, an open attempt to destroy and denigrate our fledgeling democracy”.
According to Hinds, it was within five minutes after the process started Friday morning with the use of the “farcical statements” that the diplomatic observers left.
Speaking to his rationale behind the decision to withdraw from the process, Hinds told reporters “I didn’t want to be part of the circus any longer, as a representative of CG, we thought that this is open theft, open stealing, open cheating and we hope that the international community who have already spoken act more firmly…”
Chief Justice intervention
He—like other stakeholders that spoke with Guyana Times — said that representatives were not at any time given a chance to view the SoPs being used by GECOM to verify its legitimacy.
“At least 15 attempts were made by the party to let have a sighting of what they are reading from and they refused to allow us to look at that document,” said Hinds, as he maintained that the document being used by GECOM bears no relationship to the original SoPs.
He was adamant that SoPs held by parties are copies of an original and as such it is impossible for each of the replicas to be bearing one set of information while the purported originals show different figures for one party.
“It fits with the attempt to rig the election openly; its open daylight theft.”
The count was not suspended as representatives begun leaving.
By mid-morning, Mingo appeared before Chief Justice Roxane George in relation to contempt hearings for failing to resume the verification court-ordered deadline.
While she did not make a ruling, the engagement did end up with a decision taken to suspend the process and relocate to the Commission’s Kingston, Georgetown headquarters.
Mingo decided to shift the proceedings to Kingston location for a 16:00h resumption since the Ashmin’s Building, High and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown, reportedly did not have adequate media facilities to comply with the request.
Having relocated to the Kingston location, Police ranks manning the barricade cordons were provided with a list of those allowed to enter.
The People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) by this time had pulled out of the process, taking with it their copies of SoPs.
PPP/C Commissioner Sase Gunraj told media operatives candidly, “what we are experiencing is a blatant attempt to rig an election”.
He noted that despite the Chief Justice being pellucid in her ruling, it was not being complied with.
Gunraj explained saying, “When the process started this morning (yesterday) it was clearly contrived to perpetuate that same illegality and those same shenanigans that were started last week.”
The PPP/C member also gave an account of SoPs being used by GECOM bearing just one kind of error—inflated figures for the coalition.
He reminded that as a Commissioner at GECOM, he receives a copy of an SoP that has to be verified by all parties.
According to Gunraj, the new SoPs being used by GECOM do not replicate what was originally certified before being handed to him.
Old sheet & cardboard
“The statement of polls in my possession are initialled by two commissioners from both sides of the Commission.”
He said, earlier in the day, the representatives were not allowed to see the SoPs being used by GECOM.
By the time the activity was relocated to the Commission’s headquarters a screen, which Gunraj described as an old sheet placed in front of cardboard, was utilised.
Several representatives later complained of not being able to properly make out what was being projected on the screen but the process continued nonetheless.
“Importantly, we were not allowed to verify the authenticity of those SoPs by at least checking; that opportunity was not made available to us, so as a consequence, several of the persons have left, several of the observers have left the process….”
This, in addition to the fact that the representatives were cautioned that they could not record the activity, use mobile phones or even ask questions.
By 23:00h, GECOM had completed the entire process and Mingo declared the inflated and what has been described as fraudulent results for Region Four.