More than two years after the controversial March 2020 General and Regional Election in Guyana, a highly anticipated Presidential Commission of Inquiry has commenced an investigation into the event.
The Commission is chaired by retired Justice of Appeal of the Turks and Caicos Islands Stanley John, and its investigation is expected to include about 20 witnesses who have been chosen to share their observations of the election day and the five months of uncertainty that followed until official results were declared in August of that year.
According to John, the Commission is tasked with determining what, if anything, was done to obstruct the processes of counting, ascertainment and tabulation of votes and the declaration of results in Electoral District 4. The commission will also explore the conduct of the Chief Election Officer and other Officials who came under scrutiny as a result of what occurred.
This is a job that John stressed is not to be taken lightly.
“This is a serious and heavy responsibility cast upon our shoulders. It is a responsibility that I and my fellow commissioners intend to discharge carefully with professionalism, efficiency, thoroughness, fairness, objectivity and impartiality. We are aware that much has been said about these events by many people from diverse places and organisations, but it must be borne in mind that a Commission of Inquiry has no case to prove. It is interested in the proof and in fair conclusions based on the evidence to be analysed”, he said.
Other members of the Commission are Acting Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Godfrey Smith and Former Chancellor of the Judiciary of Guyana Carl Singh.
The commissioners assured the public that the proceedings will be conducted expeditiously, but with the utmost care. They will also be open to the public and broadcast live to all interested in viewing.
Evidence will be led by Senior Counsel Sophia Chota.
Following voting day in 2020 the APNU+AFC Coalition Government was accused of conspiring with several others to change the outcome of the election in favour of their government leader David Granger.
Those involved included Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxane Mayers and Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
The three each faced separate legal action after being stripped of their duties with Guyana’s elections commission.
While questions continue to linger on whether or not the outcome of the presidential COI could cause the State to discontinue the charges against the trio, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said this was an unlikely outcome – particularly in the case of Lowenfield who was slapped with three charges of misconduct in public office and three counts of forgery.
What is certain at the moment is that the COI should result in a suite of recommendations, as seen fit by the Commissioners, which are necessary to allow the Guyana Elections Commission to discharge its statutory functions in a manner which is impartial, fair and compliant with the Constitution and relevant legislation.
Commissioners hope to complete hearings by January 2023, and submit their report by March that same year.
More on this story as it develops.