Arguing that the integrity of the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) in the Whim/Bloomfield Local Authority Area is under threat, a candidate for the PPP yesterday filed a court action to void the listing of 50 names, including his, as official nominators of rival AFC candidates.
In a fixed date application, Shafraz Beekham, of Letter Kenny Village, Corentyne, says he and 49 others were “misled/deceived” by an AFC representative into signing as a “nominator/supporter” of candidate Orlando Christopher Persaud, who is first named respondent in the suit. Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield is the second named respondent.
Beekham has asked the High Court for writs directed to Persaud to quash his decision to refuse to withdraw/remove/delete his name and the names of 49 others from the lists of backers of AFC Constituency Candidates in the Whim/Bloomfield area for the LGE, and to compel him to so do.
He charges that the grounds for the application are that Persaud’s refusal to withdraw the names is unlawful, illegal, unreasonable, in bad faith, based on improper or irregular consideration, and in violation of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act.
He adds that unless Persaud is compelled to withdraw/remove/delete his name and the names of 49 others appearing on the lists of backers, the election in the area would be “tainted with illegality and fraud.”
A hearing is slated for next Thursday at 9 am by Justice Navindra Singh.
This court action comes days after the AFC accused the PPP of bullying, coercing and duping backers into recanting their support, while the PPP has claimed that its supporters were deceived.
AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan told a press conference last Thursday that at the very last moment a number of people were brought to the returning officer by PPP officials. “We indicated that this list we got as a result of them genuinely indicating that they are supporting our candidates…They signed knowing fully well that they were signing on to an AFC list,” he had said.
He claimed that the party had evidence that that the PPP started the process of bullying, coercing and duping them into forming a group that went to Whim to have their names removed.
According to the application, which was filed on Beekham’s behalf by attorney Adrian Anamayah, he and others were deliberately “misled/deceived” into signing a document by an AFC representative, who “fraudulently represented” that she was employed by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and that he “needed to sign a document to confirm that my name was on the voters’ list.” He said that he was informed by the other electors in the community that they were told that they would benefit from better roads, jobs, better pension and rehabilitated playgrounds and they too were “misled/deceived” into signing.
In his affidavit, Beekham explained that it was only after nomination day, September 21st, 2018, that he learnt that the signature that was taken from him was used without authority to name him as a nominator/supporter backing the AFC candidate in constituency No. 3 for the elections.
“At no time whatsoever was I or the other residents informed or did we know that we were in fact signing a list of backers in support of the AFC Candidate(s),” he maintained before explaining that on becoming aware of the “fraud” perpetrated on him and the other electors, he immediately demanded that the names be withdrawn from the AFC lists.
He said that he and the other electors executed statutory declarations/affidavits on September 23rd and 26th, withdrawing their names and support for the AFC Candidate on the lists submitted.
Beekham added that on September 25th, 2018, he and other electors visited Persaud’s office, situated within the Whim/Bloomfield Neighbourhood Democratic Council building, to submit the statutory declarations/affidavits to have their names withdrawn/removed/deleted but he was not in office and there was no other representative present who would accept the withdrawals.
He said he returned to Persaud’s office the following day with other electors to submit the withdrawals and it was made clear that they did not knowingly/intentionally submit or append their signatures to any lists in support of AFC candidates. “[Persaud] initially refused to accept our withdrawals, erroneously stating that the time has expired for us to do so. I did not leave and persisted to demand that my name be removed from the list,” the affidavit said.
Thereafter, contact was made by telephone with attorney and PPP-nominated GECOM Commissioner Bibi Shadick for intervention and advice.
Shadick, he said, informed that on September 25th, at a meeting of the GECOM Commissioners, it was confirmed that the deadline for the submission of the Statutory Declarations/Affidavits for the withdrawals of names from the lists was on 11.59 pm on September 26th. She informed too that the Statutory Declarations/Affidavits to withdraw the names of electors from the lists could be submitted by the representative (head of the list) or deputy representative or in person by the elector.
Beekham said that Shadick also informed that the Statutory Declarations/Affidavits were legal documents, which Persaud would be duty-bound to accept. He added that after 1.30 pm on September 26th, 2018, Lowenfield was incommunicado and could not be reached personally or by telephone to give any directions to Persaud and that in his absence, the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers, was contacted. He claims Myers indicated that she could not give any instructions to Persaud without first conferring with Lowenfield, who she was also unable to contact.
According to Beekham, Persaud later informed him that he would accept the Statutory Declarations/Affidavits from him and the other electors only if the “electors desirous of withdrawing (including myself) were present in person.” As a result, he said he and 49 other electors presented themselves to Persaud on September 26th.
However, they were then advised that a confrontation had to be done between them and the AFC candidates and further that the AFC candidates would be given time to rebut the allegations being made.
Beekham said he and the 49 other electors were all present but the AFC candidates/representatives were not. “[Persaud] then proceeded to accept all of our Statutory Declarations/Affidavits and in my presence signed and issued an acknowledgement of receipt to the representative of the Peoples Progressive Party, Ms. Himatee Latchman,” he avowed.
But Beekham, who listed the names of the other 49 persons in his Affidavit, said that two days later, he learnt that Persaud had refused to remove the names from the lists submitted by the AFC.
Maintaining that Persaud’s action was illegal, he said that based on the advice of his attorney, he believed that the statutory deadline to give notice of withdrawal prescribed by Section 53 of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act had not expired on September 26th, and that Persaud was legally-bound to accept the withdrawals.
He said that he was further advised that by Persaud’s deliberate and unlawful refusal to withdraw his name and the names of the other 49 electors, he acted in direct contravention of Section 44A (4) (c) and (d) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, by allowing AFC candidates to contest the LGE without satisfying the fundamental criteria of having a list(s) of “not less than twenty nor more than thirty persons who are registered voters.”
“[Persaud] clearly did not act impartially as is required by virtue of his office and was fully aware that if our names were withdrawn the AFC candidates would be disqualified from contesting the [LGE],” he argued.
Beekham said that given all that he has outlined, it is in the public’s interest and welfare that the matter be heard and determined with every “convenient speed,” so as to permit the illegalities and fraud to be corrected and rectified within such time that would permit the holding of the elections on November 12th or any other date during the period statutorily provided for the holding of the polls.