The installation of the PPP/C in Government has seen a flurry of activities post haste, not least among them the reassignment of Police Officers. It has also seen actions being undertaken by the Police Force that brings into question the professionalism of the Force and the motives behind some of the Force`s actions.
As Commissioners of the Guyana Election Commission, we see the actions being taken against GECOM employees and more particularly the demands being made on GECOM as reeking of ulterior motives; targeting of GECOM employees; and disregarding the Rule of Law. We are also concerned that these occurrences are following on from political pronouncements.
The Chairperson of GECOM has been written to, by the Crime Chief, as follows: “I do hereby write with reference to the above caption matter to inform you that upon receipt of formal reports together with the directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the exercise of her constitutional powers under Article 187 of the Constitution of Guyana, the Guyana Police Force has initiated criminal investigations against Keith Lowenfield, Clairmont Mingo and others who are alleged to have been criminally responsible for the post 2nd March 2020 Regional and General Elections incidents.”
Our concerns are manifold:
- Is the Crime Chief following up on the private criminal charges or is he responding to quite distinct allegations? If he is following up on private criminal charges, how is that possible since those who initially made the allegations have done so without presenting an iota of evidence to support those charges? That would be tantamount to abuse of the justice system and the perpetration of injustice against Lowenfield et al. Private criminal charges are premised on the presentation of evidence by those bringing the charges.
- If they are not following up on the private criminal charges how does the DPP come into the picture without first receiving a file from the Police, requesting advice on a matter on which investigation has already been undertaken?
- The reference to “the post 2nd March, 2020 Regional and General Elections incidents” has no specificity. Is the Crime Chief referencing the riotous behaviour at the Ashmins Building or the accusation of assault leveled at the current Minister of Home Affairs or the attack on the Police in Region 5?
- How does the Crime Chief request information from GECOM, which is clearly protected from such requests? Section 102 (2) enacts that “the Chief Election Officer shall keep all parcels received in pursuance of subsection (1) in safe custody and, subject to the provisions of this Act and any law made under article 163 of the Constitution, allow no person to have access hereto.” The said material being requested is that which was “received in pursuance of subsection (1)”. Section 140 (2) also specifies that “no evidence of any deliberation of the Elections Commission regarding its business shall be admissible in any court.”
- Reference to “and others” in the Crime Chief`s assertion seems to suggest that the others are any persons who the Police may wish to so treat. That sets the scene for possible arbitrary action, by the Police.
- Isn’t it the jurisdiction of the High Court, arising out of the hearing a Petition, to determine if fraud was committed, during the course of an election? Is an attempt being made here to pre-empt a petition and to otherwise tie-up the documents which are required for the hearing of a petition?
We bring these matters to the attention of the people, the final arbiters of democracy, whose freedom can be threatened if the Police are allowed to act capriciously and flout the Rule of Law.
Charles Corbin; and