GUYANA: GECOM ARRESTS: Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper warns President Ali about arrests

JAMAICA | GLEANER EDITORIAL WARNS GUYANA’S PRESIDENT IRFAAN ALI TO TREAD WITH CARE

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, October 1, 2020 – Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner newspaper has weighed in on what has become an untenable situation in the Republic of Guyana, where the Chief Electoral Officer for the Guyana Elections Commission, as well as a number of his colleagues, have been arrested on private criminal charges because the then PPP opposition party was not pleased with the manner in which the election tally was being conducted.

The Gleaner’s editorial is important, in that it has noted its concern over what is potentially an inflammable situation, and has signalled to the rest of the Caribbean community the need to pay attention to the situation which threatens to further polarise the already fragile ethnic balance in that important CARICOM member state.

Here is the full text of the Editorial: – Jamaica Gleaner

Using the law to settle political scores is a tactic often employed by authoritarian governments and their leaders, which we hope is not what is happening in Guyana. It has no place in liberal democracy.

Last week, Keith Lowenfield, Guyana’s chief electoral officer, who courted controversy in the aftermath of last March’s disputed elections, was arrested for misconduct and fraud on complaints brought by two supposedly private citizens. The police, meanwhile, have opened a separate investigation into Mr Lowenfield’s conduct during the elections. The expectation is that Guyana’s government prosecutors will assume responsibility for all the cases – the private ones and whatever the police come up with.

While this newspaper vehemently disagreed with some of Mr Lowenfield’s actions, including defying the orders of Guyana’s Electoral Commission (GECOM) after a recount of the ballots, and urged his firing by the commission, we perceive something more than slightly mephitic in current events in Georgetown. President Irfaan Ali must be careful that it does not evolve into something far more malodorous and politically uncontainable.

A broadly sketched background to these developments may be useful.

At the counting of the ballots following the poll, President Ali’s People’s Progressive Party and its Civic ally (PPP/Civic) built up a substantial lead in the mostly rural districts where it enjoys the bulk of its support, primarily among Indo-Guyanese. That meant that the then governing coalition, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC), needed to do exceptionally well in its Afro-Guyanese base to win the election. It appeared, from the unofficial reports, to have been doing just that and would eke out a narrow victory.

However, before the results were declared, PPP/Civic contested the number and complained of fraud. This led, eventually, to a recount of all the votes, monitored by overseers appointed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In the meantime, supporters of the APNU/AFC went to court to challenge the process.

The CARICOM-invigilated recount showed a narrow victory for PPP/Civic. But in rejecting the raw aggregate numbers, and claiming myriad irregularities unearthed during the recount disqualified tens of thousands of votes, Mr Lowenfield refused to validate PPP/Civic’s victory, despite being ordered to file a return on the basis of the recount.

He further felt fortified by an initial ruling by Guyana’s appeal court that the election of the president should be based on votes validly cast for that purpose. On that basis, he filed a return – which was rejected by GECOM – that gave APNU/AFC a narrow victory, and relented only after a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which said that he had overstepped his authority. The legitimacy of PPP/Civic’s victory is now being challenged in the courts by way of election petitions, which is the course the CCJ argued that aggrieved parties should have followed all along.

Whatever may have been Mr Lowenfield’s underlying motivations, his actions were in tandem with court proceedings, initiated by others, and his interpretation of the latitude allowed him by the law. We disagreed with some of his actions but were mindful that there was no complaint of abuse of process by the courts when asked to rule on the various challenges. In Guyana, with its ethnic-based politics and badly rent race relations, institutional tolerance is important. That is why we find the current developments of concern.

OTHER THAN NOBLE

GECOM, insofar as we are aware, has brought no disciplinary charges against Mr Lowenfield or any of his subordinates. Indeed, it is from that agency that we expected the complaints and legal action against Mr Lowenfield to emanate. His arrest by the police after complaints by private citizens and known supporters of the ruling party, with a requirement of his bail being that he also reports to the police for further questioning, inspires fears that the motives are other than noble and that institutions of the state are being perhaps deployed to partisan ends.

Two presumptions are in circulation. One is that the arrest and humiliation of Mr Lowenfield, whatever the eventual outcome of the case against him is, of itself, punishment. An end in itself. The other is that the presence of these charges will taint him as a witness if he were to be called in the election petition matters.

The grave danger, in our view, is the potential for the further ethnic polarisation of politics in Guyana, and with it ethnic relations. Sometimes, even in the midst of right, or the presumption thereof, it makes sense to tread lightly.

In this regard, we remind President Ali of his remark in his inaugural address: “I will not see a nation divided by ethnicity; I will see a nation cemented in unity.” Often, in tenuous situations, such as exist in Guyana, definitions start with perceptions, which may be reinforced by early missteps.


ABUSE OF POWER IS NOT DEMOCRACY’- CONCERNED CITIZENS

Abuse of power is not democracy’. That’s the view of several concerned citizens who picketed the detention of yet another GECOM official. More in this report from Travis Chase.

HGPTV (Channel16 Cable67)

 

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • the only  On October 8, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Total nonsense.

  • Dennis Albert  On October 8, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Former President Granger did not libel suit one critic or Mercury-paid troll for libel. The PPP and their supporters are enacting their Dubai dreams and dictatorship of the desert on the Guyanese people.

  • The Blue Man  On October 9, 2020 at 10:57 am

    how come the Jamaican Gleaner was silent when Lowenfield and Mingo were behaving like asses during the counting of the votes?

    • Curtis  On October 9, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      To you Blue Man Lowenfield and Mingo might have been behaving like asses but to Guyanese who were looking for a fair and transparent election, they were doing due diligence. Charging anyone with respect to this election is totally a “we pun top now” message being sent by power hungry, egomaniacs. These officers, given their positions in GECOM, had every right to question the results. The cases are bogus, plain and simple.

    • Dennis Albert  On October 9, 2020 at 10:52 pm

      CARICOM was here assessing the counting of the votes, and during the recount. Many of those who post online made insults and said Granger-dis-dat-dictator, et al, are mainly PPP supporters.
      You nuh see dictatorship yet! De Jagdeo crew is gonna this country into the Saudi Arabian Equatorial Guinea of the new world.
      A time will come when many Guyanese and CARICOM nationals will pray for a huge oil spill to hold the PPP accountable.

  • brandli62  On October 13, 2020 at 10:15 am

    This is a very IMPORTANT editorial published by the Jamaica Gleaner! It raises some very important points regarding the post-election events happening under the new government led by President Ali and VP Jagdeo.

    Unlike what some of the GO commentators are claiming here, the Jamaica Gleaner had been critical in the past about Keith Lowenfield’s conduct, but it states very clearly “there was no complaint of abuse of process by the courts when asked to rule on the various challenges.” Hence, any witch hunt against political opponents needs to be stopped right away.

    The false narrative of the Coalition blocking the declaration of the results also needs to be repealed. The delays were caused by numerous appeals to the courts, which were all legal but finally repealed. Once GECOM declared the final results. President Granger made way to hand over power to President Ali.

    The editorial also points out that there was evidence for irregularities. The coalition has filed an election petition and it’s now up to the courts to decide whether there is any merit to the claims. For myself, I still maintain that there is credible evidence for ballot stuffing given that the final number of votes cast declared by GECOM for the 2020 general elections amounts to an unprecedented voter participation of 96.3%. For more details, please read my opinion pieces published in the Guyana Chronicle and the Kaieteur News in July 2020.

    Reference:
    https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2020/07/25/gecom-needs-to-declare-the-recount-results-an-election-petition-is-the-tool-to-challenge-the-declaration-in-court/

    https://guyanachronicle.com/2020/07/24/it-is-time-to-move-on/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s