Key meeting of GECOM today

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The office of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)

…commission remains split on house-to-house registration

WHEN the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission meets today, it will deliberate on a work plan presented to it by a technical committee, which will determine the amount of time the body needs to prepare for general and regional elections.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield is reported by Demerarawaves as telling reporters on Monday that he presented copies of the work-plans to members of the Operations Sub-Committee. The online news outlet reported that when asked if the current voters’ list was good to run off a general election now, Lowenfield said “The list is clean; it has a life until the 30th of April” and “depending if the Commission so decides”.

But at least two commissioners– Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman– have been adamant that the voters’ list must be cleansed before any elections. However, even before the meeting, the Commissioners were once again at odds as the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioners are bent on approving a March, 2019 elections timeline.
Benn said the documents presented by GECOM give one timeline of July 2019 and another for about six months after house-to-house registration.

“The documents that have been presented are fabricating a situation to go beyond the constitutionally determined timeline,” Robeson Benn told the Guyana Chronicle. “The only acceptable timeline is the constitutionally determined timeline which is March 19 and that is still possible for elections to be held within that timeframe. That’s my view.”

The work plan, presented to the Sub-Committee on Monday, was prepared by the GECOM Secretariat and handed over to co-chairs Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Charles Corbin, and members Desmond Trotman and Benn. Gunraj had also confirmed to the newspaper that he received same around noon that day. The Commissioners had agreed last week to recommence progressive deliberations following previous stalemate on the matter.

The coalition parties believe that the current voters’ list is “compromised” and would be a grave injustice to Guyanese should the country move forward with it to elections. The parties said the list consists of thousands of dead persons and does not include many now eligible to vote. “I believe that the list is compromised. This is not only a list that we have to take off dead people or people who are removed from the community, this is a list where the PPP used their returning officers, in the villages where people are pro-PPP, to move people from one area to the next during local government elections and, therefore, we consider the list compromised,” People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) General Secretary, Amna Ally, told the Guyana Chronicle last week Wednesday.

These are issues, she added, that the coalition parties have noticed in past and even the most recent elections. Ally said in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), persons were moved by certain political affiliates from the neighbouring town of Bonfim in Brazil to Lethem with the aim of having them vote as residents. She noted that this is only one example and similar illegalities have occurred in places such as Coomacka; Hosororo; Wainaina and Mabaruma.

Court ruling
On January 31, 2019, acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire had ruled that the passage of the no-confidence motion was successful and, therefore, elections are to be held within the 90-day timeframe.
However, several ministers of government and members of society do not believe that GECOM can be ready for elections in the remaining days.

Many are calling for the $3B budgeted house-to-house registration to take place as this would clear the current list of dead persons and enable now- eligible persons to vote. In addition, the fact that Article 106(7) of the constitution provides for an extension of the 90-day period required by “not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly [to] determine,…” is now the reason for much debate.