‘We have abided by the law’

‘We have abided by the law’

Representatives of Guyana’s two main political parties sat down together and agreed to a national recount of the 2020 General and Regional Elections; they crafted an Order and committed to abide by it, but now, when doing so does not favour one of the political parties, it goes rogue in a desperate bid for power.

This is the way APNU+AFC Executive member, Aubrey Norton described what led to Guyana’s current electoral situation and the matter currently before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which he believes ought not to have been entertained.

On Sunday, Norton spoke with Trinidad and Tobago CCN TV6 host, Fazeer Mohammed, hoping to correct what he said are false narratives of the Guyana situation pedaled by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to the regional and international community.

He said that not only has the APNU+AFC realised that the PPP/C is not allowing the current legal process to run its course but it has gone out of its way to pledge large sums to foreign companies to spread its messages and the party is now desperate to win the elections to pay its debts.

However, Norton said that, in the mix of things are the citizens of Guyana who have not forgotten that Guyana’s national recount — still incomplete — is governed by an Order which the APNU+AFC has been criticised for simply seeking to upkeep.

Digging straight to heart of the present contention, he pointed to the national recount Order which was made by the Elections Commission pursuant to its powers under Article 162 of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act, No. 15 of 2000. It was gazetted on May 4, 2020 and previously found the agreeance of both major political parties involved.

However, Norton pointed to the section of the Order which he said the PPP/C wishes to ignore and has managed to convince some sections of the international community should be ignored.

Reaching for the portion of the Order that details how the ballots should be counted, he highlighted: “…the conduct of the aforementioned recount of all ballots cast at the said elections, including the reconciliation of the ballots issued with the ballots cast, destroyed, spoiled, stamped, and as deemed necessary, their counterfoils/stubs; 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.”

Norton told those tuned into the programme: “I’m saying to you, without fear of successful contradiction, that in essence, the APNU+AFC has lived by the actual law as it relates to this recount and, therefore, one has to recognise that a lot of the utterings of the People’s Progressive Party, they are an attempt to go outside and allow people to forget what the Order says.”

The APNU+AFC Executive said that, throughout the recount process, his party has highlighted the cases where the necessary reconciliation of the ballots cast did not meet the requirement of the Order but, it was soon realised that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was being influenced to ignore these cases, contrary to the very Order it crafted.

“It is at that point that we recognized that they were not going to honour the law and have the reconciliation as stipulated by law and it is at that point that a private citizen went to Court and asked the Appeal Court, in keeping with the law, to determine 1) the jurisdiction, which was established and 2) that what ‘more votes’ meant is ‘more valid votes cast’,” Norton explained.

He added: “When the People’s Progressive Party recognised that in one area alone, 41 ballot boxes had no documentation in keeping with the law and could not be validated, they went out, used their Mercury company, the people they have international support with, and began this call for them to be declared winners based on the tabulated votes rather than what the law says.”

Now, with the matter before the CCJ, brought by the PPP/C which hopes to see the Court overturn the Appeal Court’s ruling to say that it had no jurisdiction to do so, Norton advised that CCJ should look sharp before it contradicts itself by ruling on a case it has no jurisdiction on.

The APNU+AFC’s position on the matter of the CCJ having no jurisdiction on the aforementioned matter is based on Article 177 (4) of the Constitution which gives the Appeal Court the legal right to rule on matters in relation to the election of a president and stamps the court’s ruling as “final”.

“In my opinion, the CCJ should not even have gone into the details and listened to both sides. I think some people believe that it was an attempt to give the PPP/C a channel out but based on the law and what the CCJ has been saying over the years, they knew fully well that they had no jurisdiction and I believe that they will be forced, if they’re following the law, to determine that the CCJ has no jurisdiction,” Norton said.

Furthermore, he believes that the entire Caribbean is watching on and certain countries, which already have reservations about the CCJ and its ability to remain impartial, will make decisions on whether or not they should sign on to the Court as their highest Court, based on its ability to stick to the law in the Guyana case.

Asked whether crisis could come to Guyana should the CCJ rule that is has jurisdiction on the matter, Norton said: “The CCJ is operating in a community that has more than 15 countries. Only four countries signed on because of the reservation they have about the ability of some judges in the Caribbean to be impartial. So, I believe that the real crisis will be a crisis for the CCJ because all and sundry that are on the side of law will know fully well that they have no jurisdiction and if they do that, they are threatening the existence of the CCJ because others will conclude that if the law is clear that you had no jurisdiction and you overreach, then they wouldn’t want to become a part.”

During the interview, Norton also spoke to the possible avoidance of the current events had the PPP/C not lobbied against the completion of the national house-to-house registration exercise which would have seen a clean Official List of Electors (OLE) being used in the elections, almost entirely ruling out possible cases of voter impersonation.

He stated further that, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), though now under attack by the PPP/C, was right in accordance to his duties and the law to present to the Elections Commission, only votes which could be verified as valid.

To those from the Opposition now against the CEO for such, Norton stated: “Could I remind you that Lowenfield was first appointed under the PPP government? I find it strange that suddenly he is not an ‘honest broker’. But I want to say this, Keith Lowenfield operated based on the Order that was negotiated by the two parties. Keith Lowenfield operated based on the law.”

He cautioned the international and regional community about their support for the PPP/C indicating that the party has not abided by the Order in place and actively campaigns for others to do the same.

“I think it is hurting Guyana. I think Guyanese would prefer a resolution [so that we can] move on. But one of the things Guyanese wouldn’t allow, at this stage, is a government to come into power by fraudulent means…we are not dealing with people who are honest and who want to see proper elections and results. We are dealing with people who made promises to people as it relates to oil resources and they are desperate for power regardless.”

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