– Claims & Objections period opens next week
AS the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) concludes its continuous registration process and moves on to the claims and objections exercise in the coming week, it is highly likely that Local Government Elections (LGE) will be held by the end of 2022.
This was disclosed by Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, who was interviewed in a media scrum following the swearing-in of the newly-appointed GECOM Commissioner, Clement Rohee.
She said that the commission is looking to hold the LGE at the end of November or early December.
In response to accusations by the political opposition, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), of there being a bloated voters’ list, Justice Singh said any name on the list is there legally, adding that the upcoming claims and objections period would give persons a chance to object to those who aren’t supposed to be there.
“They weren’t bloated. They were legally there… if the list is bloated, well, we are moving now to claims and objections, and people would have a chance to object to who is not supposed to be there,” she said.
The Claims and Objections Exercise will commence on August 22, 2022, to produce an Official List of Electors (OLE).
This exercise, according to a GECOM press release, will be conducted at all of GECOM’s permanent Registration Offices in the ten Administrative Regions.
The statement reads: “During the Claims and Objections period, any person who will be 18 years and older by the October 31, 2022, and is a Guyanese citizen by birth, descent, or naturalisation, or is a citizen from a Commonwealth country living in Guyana for one year or more, can make a Claim on or before September 11, 2022 to be included on the OLE, providing that he/she was never previously registered.
“Persons desirous of making a Claim to be included in the OLE are required to visit the GECOM Registration Office responsible for their area of residence with the applicable source document such as original Birth Certificate, valid Passport, Adoption Certificate, or Naturalisation Certificate or Certificate of Registration to be registered for inclusion.
“Persons who are required to update their registration records such as changes or corrections to their names and occupation, or to apply for a transfer concerning their addresses are advised that those transactions would also be facilitated during this exercise.
“The relevant source documents such as an original Marriage Certificate, Deed Poll with Birth Certificate, or a new Birth Certificate reflecting the changes must be presented in the case of an application for a change or correction.
“Objections against the inclusion of names in the PLE can be tendered to the Registration Officer of the Registration Area from August 22, 2022 to September 15, 2022.
“Objections can be made by an Elector who is listed in the same Division list or Sub Division list in which the person being objected to is listed.
“Objections can also be made by approved Scrutineers of Political Parties provided that any such Scrutineer has monitoring responsibilities for the Division or Sub Division in which the person being objected to is listed.
“The relevant original documents such as an original Death Certificate must be presented at the time of the hearing to support the basis upon which the objection is made.
“The Commission is urging all eligible persons to ensure that they use this opportunity to be registered for inclusion in the Revised List of Electors (RLE) and ultimately the Official List of Electors (OLE) to be eligible to vote.
“Persons are also encouraged to object to the inclusion of the name of any person whom they believe should not be on the list, based on the legal provisions. Persons who were registered in the recently concluded Cycle of Continuous Registration need not reapply to be registered.”
Some $783 million was approved for the holding of LGE, as part of GECOM’s 2022 budgetary allocation.
This instrumental allocation earlier this year followed the announcement by Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Nigel Dharamlall, that LGE will be held this year.
During his budget debate presentation in February, he told the National Assembly that the government strongly supports the holding of the LGEs.
“We believe in democracy, we believe in people’s choices, we believe that for our country to continue to evolve for development to come flowingly to our people, we must have Local Government Elections.
“We are going to have Local Government Elections this year. We have budgeted billions of dollars for LGEs and are going to have LGEs this year,” Dharamlall had announced.
He further noted that “We have budgeted billions for GECOM, over $4.1 billion, and LGE is on the card for the government during the course of this year.”
According to Dharamlall, there had been efforts by some of the APNU+AFC GECOM Commissioners to stymie the holding of the elections, which will see councillors being elected for the 80 local democratic organs (LDOs), which include the 70 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and 10 municipalities, inclusive of Georgetown.
The government had repeatedly indicated that it was ready to hold the elections but was awaiting the guidance of GECOM. Notwithstanding this, the political opposition continued to press the issue.
Though the Local Government Minister is responsible for announcing the date for the LGEs, this can only be done after consultations with GECOM, which would pronounce on the election’s machinery’s readiness to facilitate the democratic process.
The elections were due in 2021, and some $1.1 billion had been allocated in the 2021 national budget for it; however, there were questions surrounding the credibility of several employees who were implicated in the attempts to rig the 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE). Several were eventually fired.
Last December, after months without a Chief Elections Officer, a decision was made by the constitutional body, following public advertisements and interviews for the post, to hire Vishnu Persaud as GECOM’s new Chief Elections Officer. Several other senior posts, however, are still vacant.
Minister Dharamlall, during his budget presentation, noted that the holding of LGEs is just one of many ways that this year’s budget caters to the population at the community level.
“Every village in this country will have interventions from Budget 2022. We have a lot of work to do in the local government and regional development sector,” said the minister.
The ministry has been allocated $71 billion in the national budget this year, with $714 million going towards subventions for the LDOs.