WITH the date fast approaching for the hosting of Local Government Elections (LGE) — March 18 — the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says it is doing all it can to attract persons to fill vacancies for Elections Day, even as the Commission continues countrywide training.Speaking at a media briefing yesterday at the Commission’s office, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield said that while GECOM continues to host countrywide training of staff, the entity is still in need of Elections Day staff for several communities within the 71 Local Authority areas.
“At this point, we continue to have a shortfall in the numbers, specifically in Georgetown, for the nine NDCs on the East Coast, and in Region 2 and Region 6,” he said.
Accordingly, the Commission is seeking to recruit persons from within the various Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) and municipalities to serve as Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers, and the like.
“As far as (is) practicable, what we are striving to ensure is that the presiding officers and team… are organic to the communities, NDCs or municipalities to which they reside.
“We are saying that if we are talking about Rose Hall, we want people from that municipality to be engaged, as against going to Fyrish or Port Mourant or Tain; and so that is the thrust, and as far as practicable, we have not satisfied that guideline as provided by the Commission, and we are still working assiduously.”
Lowenfield added that, in the case of Georgetown, there is a serious shortfall of staff, but he quickly pointed out that the Commission would see a dramatic change in circumstance as time draws near for the elections. As such, GECOM anticipates that many applications will be flooding the entity closer to March 18.
“Our training will continue every weekend until we would have satisfied that arrangement. Georgetown, at the 11th hour, then the residents of the City would indicate they have an interest.
“Ads are out and we are still seeking persons to apply and be part and parcel of the process,” said the CEO.
Some 103 symbols representing political parties, voluntary groups and individuals have been approved by GECOM, and some 71 Returning Officers have been employed across the Local Authority Areas, and are receiving additional training to ensure that all stakeholders have sufficient information.
GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally was confident that the Commission will receive its full complement of staff before Elections Day.
“I have no doubt about that,” he said.
The Commission noted that, in some regions, there is an overage of staff, but insofar as sticking with its mandate to ensure that those appointed are “organic” to their Local Authority Areas and constituency, GECOM “cannot capitalise on the total number that we have.”
Additionally, the Commission admitted that not every stakeholder is au fait with the LGE processes, and as such, efforts are being made to ensure that all stakeholders become apprised of the processes.
Deputy Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud told the media that the Commission recognises there are different categories of stakeholders that need to be informed, especially those at the grassroots levels who simply have no access to the various forms of media.
“It is for that reason we have, since September last year, been preparing specific flyers relating to different components of the electoral processes, like what the electoral system is about, requirements, qualifications for contesting.”
Persaud told the media that GECOM has been arranging interactive meetings in all of the Local Authority Areas. Those meetings, he said, were publicised through the use of flyers and PA Systems.
The results of those meetings, however, were not favourable.
“I can say that the response to these meetings was less than expected,” he said.
Letters, he added, were sent to some 96 civil society organisations across the regions. These consist of local authority areas, and the letters were to arrange meetings of their membership and by extension the public, so that those persons could be educated about LGE.
“Till now, we must have had five of them responding favourably, and we have had meetings with them. We are hoping that, as we move forward, the interest would develop, as we ourselves would intensify our efforts in terms of getting our message out there, and then we would more than likely see less negative comments coming as it relates to people understanding the LGE process, systems and everything else that goes with it,” Persaud added.