…GECOM reports ‘good first day’
…despite alleged intimidation of field staff by PPP supporters
DESPITE attempts by supporters of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to intimidate enumerators, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said its house-to-house registration exercise got off to a good start on Saturday.
GECOM has said that the countrywide exercise is in keeping with a decision of the commission on February 19, 2019 and in accordance with Order No. 25 of 2019 dated June 11, 2019. “On the large scale we have had the support of a number of persons who have presented themselves to allow for registration,” said Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Yolanda Ward, during an invited comment on Saturday evening.
Although Ward could not provide a figure of how many registrations were completed, at that time, she said teams were deployed across the country to ensure that the process started on time.
Registration offices were opened and workers were out in the field from 9:00hrs to 16:00hrs, despite the inclement weather throughout the day. Earlier in the year, she notified the newspaper that persons who were trained for the exercise are expected to amount to some 1,800 teams and over 4,000 employees.
Of the 1,800 teams 1,056 teams were deployed on Saturday and there were 261 cluster offices. More teams will be added in the coming days to ensure that there is a full complement.
Workers were not obstructed by the rain, but according to Ward they faced a challenge which was created by supporters of the PPP/C. “We had a challenge in terms of reports that purported supporters from the PPP have been following the teams and indicating to persons, in some areas, not to get registered because the process is not legal,” Ward lamented, adding that the alleged supporters claimed to be doing it because GECOM did not provide any political party scrutineers.
Ward could not say what system would be put in place to deal with the matter, but she said registration is a legal requirement by law and is stated in the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08. It is, therefore, mandatory and not optional. Persons in breach of registration can be fined and charged so she urged persons to adhere to the process of getting registered.
On the issue of scrutineers, the PPP/C had claimed that GECOM did not inform them of the need to have scrutineers tracking the activity although every transaction has a part where scrutineers would have to sign.
Ward, however, refuted that claim, noting that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield had written to political parties, requesting that they provide scrutineers. “We approached parties to let them appoint scrutineers… I cannot say what system will be put in place or whether the CEO will send follow-up reminders but they were notified, but because of the resistance there was non-compliance,” said Ward. Despite the odds, she said the exercise will continue today and GECOM will continue to monitor the process to see what is happening.
Residents were satisfied with the process on the first day. A resident of Tucville, Carl Benjamin, said the process was good and the enumerators did a great job by explaining the process in great detail. He called on persons to participate in the process, since it is of national importance.
Twenty-six-year-old, Aeisha Forde, of Festival City also agreed that the process is important and persons should participate. Those sentiments were also shared by a 15-year-old who was registered for the first. The teenager, who preferred to be unnamed, said it is important for young people to get registered and participate in the process.
“I am in full support of the process of house-to-house registration,” said a resident of the West Coast of Demerara (WCD), Ganesh Mahipaul.
Mahipaul said he appreciates the work of GECOM and believes that the process is the best way to clean the Official List of Electors (OLE). It was reported that the process would be necessary to create a new OLE for elections, since the last voters list expired in April 2019.
The current list is said to contain the names of thousands of Guyanese who are either deceased or have migrated, while also disenfranchising younger Guyanese who would have since attained the age of 18 years, and are eligible to vote at elections, since the last list was compiled in 2012.
“Registration is a legal requirement according to the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08, therefore, all eligible persons are mandated to register,” GECOM said.
Guyana Chronicle had reported that house-to-house registration is a new registration exercise and all eligible persons must register even if they were previously registered, the elections management body stated. Upon conclusion of this exercise, a new National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB), which is reflective of the current Guyanese population, will be created. Subsequently, the Official List of Electors (OLE) will be extracted for the purpose of conducting General and Regional Elections.
Guyanese citizens by birth, descent, naturalisation or registration, 14 years and older by October 31, 2019 or a citizen of a Commonwealth country living in Guyana for a period of no less than one year, preceding the qualifying date, are all eligible for registration.
Residents were urged to have the relevant documents required for registration ready and be on the lookout for GECOM’s registration officials in their area. “These documents include an original Birth Certificate, a Valid Passport, Naturalisation Certificate, Certificate of Registration, Adoption Certificate and Deed Poll or Marriage Certificate (if applicable),” said GECOM.
For the purpose of this exercise, each eligible person will only be registered where he/she resides. Residence includes dwelling places such as homes, residential institutions such as hospices and homes for youth and the elderly. Registration will not be done at GECOM Registration Offices.
While the commission is undertaking the registration exercise, concurrent operational activities for the preparations of General and Regional Elections are underway. A publication in the official gazette dated June 11, 2019 showed that an order was documented for the registration exercise to commence on July 20 and end on October 20, 2019. The document, which outlined a three-month period, was signed by former GECOM Chair, Justice (Rtd.) James Patterson.
The order, cited as the National Registration (Residents) Order 2019, stated: “Persons to whom this Order applies shall, in accordance with Section 6 of the Act, be registered under the process of house-to-house registration with reference to October 31, 2019 and the registration shall begin on July 20, 2019 and end on October 20, 2019.”
Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, in a video, which was posted on his Facebook page, said the PPP/C believes that the activity is in contravention of the order of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The CCJ upheld the no-confidence vote against the government and quashed the appointment of Patterson as Chairman of the commission. However, on July 12, 2019, the court gave Consequential Orders that it had no authority to set a timeline or date for the holding of elections in Guyana. “The activity is done by a CEO of GECOM who has no legal basis to conduct this activity… He is using an order signed by the illegally-appointed Justice Patterson to conduct this activity; the order was overtaken by the judgment of the CCJ,” Jagdeo argued.
The PPP/C as such, will not be cooperating with the activity and will go to the court on Monday to seek an injunction against the “illegal activity.” As GECOM continues with its work, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) had urged the PPP/C to desist from trying to interfere with the work of GECOM.
“This dishonest behaviour has included threats and other forms of intimidation tactics against the Chief Elections Officer and the elections commission,” said the PNC/R in a press statement on Friday.