I had met the Chairman and members of the Elections Commission and the Leader of the Opposition during 2019 and committed to work towards ensuring that the expected General and Regional Elections would be free and credible and would be held at the earliest possible date.
The date of the elections was determined only after the Elections Commission advised that it would not be ready to conduct those elections before the end of February 2020. It was agreed that elections would be held on the first Monday in March. Three months have elapsed since General and Regional Elections were held on 2nd March 2020.
The General and Regional Elections were free and orderly. Subsequent events resulted in the prolongation of the electoral process well beyond the deadline for the declaration of results. That prolongation was occasioned by a delay owing to legal challenges in the Supreme Court of Judicature and the Court of Appeal.
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) approached the Supreme Court on three separate occasions, obstructing the work of the Elections Commission. Those actions and the calls for recounts of ballots allowed for the Supreme Court to determine the way forward.
The Elections Commission made several declarations [pursuant to Section 84 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03] subsequently. The Commission received requests from stakeholders for recounts in the ten electoral districts.
I had agreed, on 15th March, “…that a total recount of the ballots from all electoral districts in Regions One to Ten would take place urgently and in accordance with the Constitution, the applicable law and the judgment of the Court issued by Roxane George Chief Justice (ag.) on Wednesday 11 March 2020.”
I had agreed, also, that a High-Level Team from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would be allowed to function only within the framework of the Constitution and under the aegis of the Commission and the rulings of the Court.
The Elections Commission then initiated a legitimate, transparent, post-elections process which is well known and widely supported by the Government and Opposition and which is expected to eventuate in an acceptable outcome through four sequential stages:
• The ‘recount’ of ballots –the first stage –follows the decision of the Elections Commission, on 3rd April 2020, that it would recount all ballots cast in the Elections. The national recount of ballots began on 6th May 2020 and will end very soon.
• The ‘report’ of the recount – the second stage of the process – will be compiled by the Chief Elections Officer. Everyone is aware of numerous reports of irregularities including unstamped ballots, deceased and migrant voters and missing poll books. Those irregularities appear to have been committed intentionally, not accidentally, and demonstrate a pattern of manipulation of the electoral process.
The Chief Elections Officer, in the circumstances, is obliged to present a matrix of the poll results of each electoral district together with a summary of the ‘Observation Reports’ of each electoral district to the Election Commission.
It is expected that, given the exceptional interest of the CARICOM Heads of Government and the extraordinary exertions of the CARICOM scrutinizing team, their ‘report’ which will be sent to the Election Commission, will receive the fullest consideration.
• The ‘review’ of the report by the Elections Commissioners – the third stage of the process –will follow. The Commissioners will be expected to take into consideration all the evidence provided in the CEO’s ‘report’, both from the tabulation and observation, in their deliberations.
It is expected, also, that the Election Commission will examine the CARICOM report at this stage.
• The ‘result’ of the General and Regional Elections – the fourth and final stage of the process – will be declared by the Chairman of the Elections Commission after she has studied the report of the Chief Elections officer and the Observation Reports.
I had committed, on 30th April, that I shall accept the declaration of the results by the Elections Commission, which will allow for a democratically elected government to be sworn-in to office.
I am committed to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. I respect the integrity and autonomous nature of the Elections Commission. I will abide by the declarations of the Elections Commission as I have abided by the rulings of the Court.
I applaud the diligence and persistence of the Chairman of the Elections Commission, Justice Claudette Singh, who continues to perform her duties under the Constitution admirably. She demonstrated her respect for the rulings of the Court and has facilitated CARICOM’s observation role in the recount process in order to assure everyone of the credibility of the elections.
I encourage everyone to respect the Chairman of the Elections Commission and the Commissioners and to desist from scurrility, vulgarity and character assassination. The Commission must be allowed to perform its functions in accordance with the Constitution.
I encourage everyone to await the completion of the four stages – the current recount, the reports of the Chief Elections Officer and the CARICOM observers, the review by the Elections Commission and the declaration of the final results by the Chairman of the Commission.