High Court dismisses PPP’s challenge to void AFC backers’ lists

Justice Navindra Singh yesterday dismissed the court action filed by a candidate for the PPP, who had sought to void the listing of 50 names, including his, as official nominators of rival AFC candidates in the Whim/Bloomfield, Corentyne area.

Based on a police report presented to him, Justice Singh ruled at the High Court in Berbice that the allegation that the AFC fraudulently procured the names of residents listed as backers of its candidates for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) in the Whim/Bloomfield Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) area, cannot be established.

The police were invited to conduct an investigation when the matter was heard in court previously.  The case has seen sharp exchanges between the PPP and the AFC.

In a fixed date application, Shafraz Beekham, of Letter Kenny Village, Corentyne, had said that he and 49 others were “misled/ deceived” by an AFC representative into signing as a “nominator/supporter” on the AFC’s Lists of Candidates. Orlando Christopher Persaud was the first named respondent in the suit while Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield was 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 had contended 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.”

This court action was initiated 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.

In a statement yesterday, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) noted that Justice Singh had dismissed the court case brought against Lowenfield and Persaud, who is the Returning Officer for the Bloomfield /Whim NDC area. According to the statement, after careful review of the police report, Justice Singh “indicated that there was no evidence of fraud, trickery or threat.”

“Against this backdrop, Justice Singh dismissed the matter noting that there was no basis to ask the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield to ‘strike out’ the names of the nominators from the AFC’s Lists of Candidates,” GECOM said.

Yesterday, Beekham’s attorneys, Anil Nandlall and Adrian Anamayah, both contended that the police report presented was “doctored.”

“According to what I heard from the people who were the subject of the report, as well as persons who were present when the police took statements from the persons, I am of the firm view that that report was doctored, it was sanitised. It did not reflect what the people told the officers who interviewed them and the judge took the report as a guide and ruled that the allegations contained in our applications cannot be established,” Nandlall told Stabroek News.

Additionally, he claimed that the AFC candidates who said that the 50 persons had signed on to back them, could not be located during the investigation.

Meanwhile, Anamayah, who was present during the police’s questioning of persons, also said that the report did not accurately represent what the persons said to the investigators. “Myself was present for many of those statements, we are familiar with the people and they told us that they were fooled and yet this report concludes that all of the persons who signed ‘were fully aware’ – that’s the words used in the report – of what they are signing. You ask any of them and they would tell you it is not so. The report was clearly doctored to produce a result,” he contended.

The residents, who were present at the High Court yesterday, said they were very upset about the ruling since they would have wanted their names to be removed.

Beekham told this newspaper that he told the police that the persons who fraudulently procured his name, had told him that they were from GECOM and were going around to get the names of persons who are alive in the villages for the upcoming local government elections.

The man said he is a strong PPP/C supporter and would have never signed the list had he known it was an AFC backers’ list. “Me a PPP since me get sense, I never know that that list what me a sign deh a AFC,” he said. “Them fool me because she say she working with GECOM,” he added.

Another resident, Rajkumar said, “She come and say she from GECOM and them want me to sign the list. I tell she abie already sign (PPP/C) list, she say no, that me got to sign this too, she na say for what or wah, I am a PPP supporter and I want my name to remove from AFC list.”

Another resident Aniel Persaud said, “She never once said the (list) was for AFC and I told the police the same thing…If she had said it is for AFC or PPP, I would have known. I’m not an AFC member, I wouldn’t have signed it. I explained that to the officer,” he said.

Attorney Teni Housty was present at the High Court in Berbice on behalf of the Chief Election Officer yesterday. 

Last night, the PPP condemned the police report and the court’s decision.

“Electoral democracy and the citizens’ right to vote in Guyana suffered yet another blow today. A Police Report submitted to Justice Navindra Singh in the High Court in Berbice totally misrepresented what the residents of the Whim/Bloomfield Local Authority Area claimed they told to the Police during interviews that were supposed to be used to compile that report…

“Significantly the Police in the Report claimed that they were unable to locate Abraham Nagamootoo, Mavis Nagamootoo and other members of the Nagamootoo family and other AFC Candidates who were implicated in the statements given by the residents.

“There is no doubt that the Police investigation and the ensuing Report were perverted by and contaminated with political interference. Despite the fact that the Report was clearly tailored to meet a particular conclusion, it still contains various damning statements: for example, all of the persons interviewed and whose names are on the AFC list of backers made it absolutely clear that they did not know that they were signing any document supportive of the AFC; that they are not supporting the AFC and that they all requested that their names be removed from those particular lists

“This finding is repeated 12 (twelve) times in the Report and on each occasion, these persons asserted their support for the PPP/C. Worse yet there is one person who said that he did not sign at all”, the PPP said,.

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