Georgetown – Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan swore in on Tuesday the three members of the Commission of Inquiry probing the events surrounding the controversial March 2020 regional and general election that brought the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to power.
The Commission is chaired by the retired Trinidad & Tobago Court of Appeal judge, Justice Stanley John and includes attorney general and Acting Justice of Appeal in the Eastern Caribbean, Godfrey P Smith SC; former chair and Chief Elections Commissioner of India, Dr S.Y. Quraishi; and the former acting chancellor, Carl Singh.
The ceremony was witnessed by British High commissioner Jane Miller, United States ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch and Deputy Secretary General of Caricom Dr Armstrong Alexis, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) chairman, retired Justice Claudette Singh, Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud as well as the PPP/C-nominated members of GECOM.
The main opposition parties in Guyana, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and Alliance For Change (AFC) have already said there was need for consultation with the Opposition in an effort to secure broad-based acceptance of the Commission.
“The Commission of Inquiry, any reasonable Guyanese, any reasonable person, will conclude; it is an interference because it is the lowest level of judicial authority and scrutiny,” PNCR executive member, retired Rear Admiral, Gary Best said.
He said GECOM must reconsider its majority position and instead conduct an internal review of the 2020 polls and rely on the election petitions, whose fate depends on the T&T-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the country’s highest court.
The PNCR said the Commission of Inquiry will amount to an “interference in the judicial process” and will permit a lot of hearsay evidence that may harm the reputation of people, but they could not be used in the court.
The AFC also supported a call for consultation on the Commission to probe the 2020 general and regional elections.
It said such an exercise must focus on the composition of the Commission, the terms of reference, and timeline for doing its works.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall, speaking ahead of the release of the Terms of Reference of the Commission, said the aim will be to probe the threat to Guyana’s democracy in 2020 through “flagrant attempts made to alter unlawfully the results of those elections at several stages of the process”.
“That must be investigated so that persons can be held responsible,” Nandlall told the online publication, Demerara Waves Online News.
“The illegality and conspiratorial role played by many will be exposed and most importantly it must form part of the permanent record of this country if only for one objective that there must never be a reoccurrence of what transpired at those elections.”
Nandlall did not indicate the cost of the Commission of Inquiry, saying “at this point in time I’m not sure”, but he admitted that such inquiries are “never a cheap undertaking”.
“Monetary value alone cannot determine the importance of events,” he said. “Guyana was pauperised by rigged elections… so a monetary cost ought not to be the basis for not pursuing this undertaking.”
Nandlall said the Commission of Inquiry will not in any way conflict with election petition appeal cases that are before the CCJ.