Attorneys Gunraj and Ram and National Security Adviser Gouveia look back at the attempts to rig the March 2 General and Regional Elections
EVERY deviation from constitutional norms, constitutional prescriptions, and legal operations resulted in an assault on democracy during the elections period of 2020, said GECOM Commissioner, Sase Gunraj.
Gunraj was at the time speaking during an Online programme titled, “Assault on Democracy- Never Again”. The programme looked at the events that unfolded following the attempts by elements at GECOM to rig the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the APNU+AFC.
Also featured on the programme were Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram, and National Security Adviser Gerry Gouveia.
Gunraj said that the outcomes of the elections were already known to many stakeholders by March 4, 2020, since the public posting of Statements of Poll (SOPs) that were collated confirmed the winner.
However, he said that those who plotted to rig the elections caused everything to go downhill. “The attempt to thwart the process was not successful.”
“When they started to read from spreadsheets, it differed significantly from the numbers that appeared on SoPs in the possession of political party agents sitting in that room,” Gunraj, an attorney-at-law recalled.
Reflecting on when Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo tried to make a declaration without verifying the results, Gunraj said he flew into a rage, as he realised Mingo’s actions would have caused irrevocable damage to the entire country, its population and reputation.
NOT ONCE BUT TWICE
“Mingo didn’t do this once; his first attempt was done downstairs in a room, but it was vehemently staved off by persons gathered. Mingo then retreated to parts of the Ashmins building that were not accessible to commissioners guarded by armed personnel,” he recalled.
Gunraj continued: “He later reemerged and did that nonsense from a balcony. Later, riot police came to move people out the building.”
What stopped the process, he noted, was when Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, now Attorney-General visited the court and returned with documents to stop the illegal proceedings with court orders.
From then on, he said, it was a battle in the courts to ensure that the Constitution and laws reign supreme.
“Those five months and the months that preceded it have given us an opportunity to learn about processes; about a breach of processes. It has shown us that some people who you held on pedestals of having integrity were far from; it has shown the effect of persons deviating from their legal constitutional job mandate and the effects of that… We need to learn those lessons,” Gunraj said.
Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram was quick to point out that some of the architects of the assault on democracy are sitting in the National Assembly.
“Mingo; yes, he was a utensil. Some of the commissioners were utensils. My question is if GECOM knew all of this, why did GECOM not act more decisively to prevent this situation from going on and on. Let’s not forget people were being terrorised in the streets; we were on the brink of a very serious situation,” he said.
Guyana, he said, is very lucky that not too many people paid the ultimate price.
“We need to have the whole story told before a full Commission of Inquiry, and all the facts must come out; those who are good, and those who did their work must be recognised,” he said.
He also said that the agents of those who embrace anti-democracy and justify the assault on democracy are well known.
VERY POOR JOB
“Expectations got blown, and ‘Plan B’ was initiated, bringing Mr. Lowenfield and Mingo into play. But we must not gloss over the fact that the Chairman did a very poor job over a critical period,” Ram said.
He explained that if the Chairperson had acted decisively and competently, “we would have been spared several months of the nightmare that we went through.”
The eyes of CARICOM and the world were on Guyana during the challenge to democracy.
“If you don’t like the results of an election in a democracy, you prepare yourself for the next elections, but you don’t go breaking down; it’s not a sign of maturity,” he said.
According to Gouveia, the actions by anti-democracy agents to frustrate the release of the verified elections results were an act of criminality.
“Deliberately falsifying numbers; SoPs. I cannot wait to see the elections petition; I want to see them justifying interfering with the numbers on the SoPs,” Gouveia said.
CARICOM, he contended, saved Guyana during the recount, and the international community ensured democracy prevailed.
“During that period, I saw people who I thought was good lying through their teeth; all of their integrity, decency, and honesty disappeared, and I could not have believed it,” the National Security Adviser said.