AG, other witnesses to be called as COI aims to wrap up public hearings by Feb. 10

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Attorney General Anil Nandlall

The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the March 2020 General and Regional Elections is drawing nearer to a close, and CoI Chairman Justice (retired) Stanley John has revealed that February 10 is targeted as the date to wrap things up.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, John announced that hearings would resume on February 6. He also noted that the CoI, which has been ongoing since November of last year, will hopefully be wrapped up by February 10.

According to the Chairman, witnesses, including Attorney General Anil Nandlall, are expected to make an appearance. John went on to inform that counsel for former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers will get a chance to cross-examine witnesses after the CoI resumes.

“As I understand it, that week we should have the Honourable Attorney General, maybe some other Ministers of Government. And if counsel for Ms. Myers wish to cross examine, that too should take place that week, and no later than 10th of February,” John said.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s session saw the continued trend of witnesses being called but invoking their right to remain silent.

Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, who is representing A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) party agent Nicola Trotman, informed the CoI that his client does not want to testify due to the fact that she is named in affidavits related to the election petitions.

While the CoI acknowledged that Trotman, a Local Government Commissioner, had the constitutional right to remain silent, it was noted that a witness who has been summoned ought to still answer questions that do not have the potential of incriminating that witness.

True to her lawyer’s word, Trotman refused to answer any of the questions posed by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Sophia Chote during the hearing. Trotman, who was present at the command center in Ashmins building when embattled Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo, attempted to make his infamous declaration, was asked about these events.

On Monday, former Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Data clerk Enrique Livan had also refused to give testimony in a similar manner. Others who have refused to testify include former Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, former GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield, and former Minister of Health Volda Lawrence.

Both Lowenfield and Mingo were summoned by the Commission. Their lawyer, Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes, indicated to the Commission that both of his clients are defendants in criminal proceedings relating to the 2020 elections, hence they would not testify.

Lowenfield and Mingo then took the stand, during which the Chairman of the Commission informed them that they are not bound to answer any question that would incriminate them.

The two former GECOM officials both reaffirmed their decisions to remain silent.Both men, along with other GECOM employees, as well as party members from the PNC-led APNU, have been charged with a slew of electoral fraud charges.

It was revealed during the CoI that Mingo attempted to use a spreadsheet with concocted figures to tabulate the votes for Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district. A subsequent national recount had revealed that the then RO had heavily inflated the figures from the region in favour of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC).

Meanwhile, the GECOM Chair, (retired) Justice Claudette Singh, had testified in December 2022 that both Mingo and Lowenfield had repeatedly refused to abide by specific instructions by the Elections Commission as well as the Courts regarding the electoral process to be used to tabulate the votes and eventually declare the results of the elections.

Lawrence and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Karen Cummings, along with the party’s Chief Scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph, who are also facing electoral fraud charges, all opted not to give evidence after being summoned by the Commission.

The same position was adopted by several other GECOM employees who were called to testify before the CoI last December due to pending investigations and criminal charges against them. They cited Article 144 (7) of the Constitution of Guyana, which states: “No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.”

In total, some 32 electoral fraud cases have been filed in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts against several political activists and GECOM officials, including Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers, stemming from the events that unfolded following the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections, which resulted in a five-month political and electoral impasse.