“I was scared for my life and unwell,” – GECOM’s Chairman justifies disappearance during uproar at Ashmins building fanned by Mingo’s premature declaration of District four results.

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Chairman of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh

Retired Justice Claudette Singh, the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), was in a panic when chaos broke out at the Ashmins Building on March 5, 2020, following District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo’s premature declaration of the results without the completion of the tabulation process. 

While taking the witness stand on Thursday, Justice Singh told the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the events surrounding the Regional and General Elections held two years ago that the GECOM commissioners’ discussion on Mingo’s divergence from the use of Statements of Poll to Spreadsheets was interrupted by news of him making a declaration. 

After hearing the news, according to Justice Singh, the commissioners rushed out of the room and towards the tabulation room, where a large crowd had gathered in outrage.

She recalled that she subsequently secluded herself in a room with one of her security personnel and refused to answer any calls.

“I was stressed. It was my personal moment when I went up to the room… I was afraid for my life because and when I heard people running upstairs, I thought they were going to harm me,” she stated. 

Justice Singh reported hearing persons signaling that they were going to smash the door while she was in the room and at that point she was scared for her life. She then got in touch with Amna Ally, former minister of Social Cohesion whom she considered a reliable friend.

“I called her because I know her very well and I told her that I was very afraid for my life,” the Chairman added. 

According to Justice Singh, she did not have the police’s phone number at the time. She explained that the threats against her life were the reason she was so stressed.

However, a call was inadvertently made from her phone to Inspector Prem Narine and when he answered, the Chairman reportedly told him that she was not feeling well. 

When the COI questioned the chairman about why she did not alert Inspector Narine to her safety concerns, she said that at the time she spoke with him, she did not feel alarmed; it was only afterward, when she learned that people were preparing to forcibly enter the room, that she started to feel concerned.

Moments later, the Chairman was escorted out of the room where she learned that party officials and other people present believed she was being held against her will. 

The COI thought it odd that the chairman was avoiding calls and withdrawing herself during a crisis, but she insisted that she needed time to relax. 

Further, the COI argued that irrespective of how the Chairman was feeling during the proceedings, her office was not inactive and as such she could have responded to the calls she was receiving.

Justice Singh maintained that while in the room, she did not turn down any calls from GECOM commissioners or personnel.

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