Surujbally leaves GECOM

Outgoing Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr Steve Surujbally smiles during his last press briefing at the electoral body’s headquarters on High Street, Kingston on Monday.

-urges revamp of commission
-suggests Guyana can assist Haiti’s electoral process

Quoting Martin Luther King’s “Free at last , Thank God Almighty I’m free at last “ on his last day on the job, outgoing Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) , Dr Steve Surujbally, is calling on the powers that be to revamp the configuration of the electoral commission.

According to the GECOM website, in addition to the Chairman, the Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2000, provides for the appointment of six members of the Commission; three members appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgment . In addition the amendment provides for three additional members to be appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition after he has meaningfully consulted the non-governmental opposition parties represented in the National Assembly.

Surujbally, officially worked his last day at High Street on February 28, 2017, after fifteen years at the helm of GECOM following his appointment by Former President Bharrat Jagdeo. During a press briefing on Tuesday at GECOM’s headquarters, the straight-forward Surujbally said that he does not know of any place in the world where three persons sit as representatives of political parties on two sides of an electoral body. “That is no solution, that is a recipe for partisanship for polarization,” he said.

He said that Guyana has had a turbulent electoral history, one in which persons died. “I would like a revamp of the entire electoral commission,” he reiterated. Over the years, GECOM has been criticised post-election day as regards the timely release of results but according to Surujbally , several factors , including considerations of Guyana’s terrain and the complexity of travelling to remote areas to ensure the numbers are correct, impact the timeliness and accuracy of the release of results.

Surujbally noted that GECOM’s expertise can also be utilised within CARICOM. Having headed an eight-member team as Chef de Mission of a CARICOM observer group to observe Haiti’s elections last November, he noted that GECOM can approach the International Standards Organisation (ISO) for certification. He said based on comments from observers in the past, including international observers, “they thought that our process is good.”

During the 28th Intercessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Governments of CARICOM in February, President Granger had noted that the regional body stands ready to assist Haiti to rebuild its economy. According to Surujbally, GECOM has reached a state where it can assist in strengthening the electoral process of that country.
“Haiti is in such need of electoral help in their methodologies which we have so well covered, “ he said.

Speaking about his future, Surujbally said that his time will revolve around his personal life. Asked whether migration lies in his plans, he staunchly noted that he will “never leave this country.” Being someone who rose from being a little boy from Robb Street to become the chairman of GECOM, he said his story may be one which he can pen in a book, but he noted that such a feat may be a self-serving move. He added however, that he has a “bucket-list” and there are two outstanding items on his list.