…GECOM rubbishes claims of ‘lengthy gaps’ to delay elections
…says proposals in conformity with elections laws
RUBBISHING claims that it is employing delay tactics to stall elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said the operations of its Secretariat are guided by the decisions of the Commission conformity with the Elections Laws of the country.
GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Warde, on Tuesday, said the article published in the Stabroek News on Monday, September 9, under the headline “Lengthy gap between Nomination, Election days in draft timeline for polls” failed to articulate the reasons why Nominations was placed 55 days before elections day as against the usual timeline – 32-34 days prior to elections day.
“The law is clear that Nominations Day should be no later than 32 days before elections day. Therefore, any time before that amount of days, even if it’s 55 days, is acceptable and in conformity with the laws of Guyana,” Warde explained.
She made it clear that the shift in the time is justifiable and within the confines of the law, adding that it is not intended to delay the holding of elections as suggested by the article.
“Historically, when all the lists of candidates were submitted and once [there are] no errors for corrections, the ballots were sent off to print. As such, some mandatory statutory timelines which took as much as 10 days after Nominations Day were bypassed and the contending parties’ list of candidates were approved and sent off for the production of ballots. However, the Operations Sub-Committee, which is co-chaired by Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Charles Corbin decided at a meeting on July 17, 2018, that all statutory timelines must be adhered to,” Warde said as she explained the decision resulting in the gap. She noted that the proposal was subsequently presented to and adopted by the full commission.
Added to that, the GECOM PRO pointed to the fact that the ballots are printed overseas and would take approximately 21 days to be produced by the service provider. “Shipping is likely to be 5-7 days which will take us to roughly 28 days,” Warde added.
Upon arrival in Guyana, she explained, a per cent has to be extracted to ship overseas to Resident Ambassadors to allow for them to vote. This process, she outlined, takes as much as 14 days to be completed.
“Consequent to the foregoing and in the present circumstances, expediting those activities means that Nominations Day must be held at least 55 days prior to elections day. It must, however, be emphasised that the timelines presented are in draft and the commission can determine whether they will reverse the decision to remove nine days for appeals after Nominations Day, once all the lists of candidates are error free,” Warde explained.
The Elections Commission, she said, remains committed to ensuring it delivers credible elections within the shortest possible time and has no motive to delay the conduct of those elections.
But Warde’s statement did not sit well with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). According to the PPP, the statement issued by GECOM’s PRO is another manifestation of the lengths to which it will go to justify delaying General and Regional Elections.
“The ‘runaway’ Secretariat continues to invent reasons for lengthy timelines (for which it has been called out by the local media corps) that were included in its notorious election activities plan that envisages elections being held until March 2020 – a full year past the constitutionally-mandated deadline,” the PPP said.
Though the PPP has referred to a constitutionally-mandated deadline, it however, failed to acknowledged that the deadline elapsed one day before the Court of Appeal, by a two-to-one margin, invalidated the no-confidence motion against the David Granger-led Administration and it was only in June, that the motion was validated by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), by which time the Official List of Electors had expired. It nonetheless said the statement by GECOM was issued minutes after the Elections Commission had met with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, along with his team.