–Secretariat confident ‘everything will go smoothly’
GUYANA Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud, and Deputy CEO Aneal Giddings have all given assurances that they are expecting nothing short of a smoothly conducted, free, fair, credible and transparent elections on Monday when Local Government Elections (LGEs) are held across the country.
These assurances were delivered on Friday during a press conference at the Commission’s Command Centre at Fort Street, Kingston. The press conference was held to provide updates on GECOM’s state of readiness for imminent elections.
“GECOM is not only fully prepared, but confident that these elections will be implemented in accordance with the law. I will surely guarantee that these elections will be conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner,” Justice Singh said as she delivered the opening remarks at the ‘presser’.
Her statements were reverberated by Persaud who reassured the press that not only is the Commission set, but is ahead in terms of preparedness.
“We are working with the plan approved for the conduct of the elections, and as we speak, we are ahead of the game insofar as the implementation of the listed activities are concerned,” Persaud said.
“I’m assuring you, from the position of the Secretariat, of our high level of confidence relative to ensuring that these elections are conducted in the desired manner, not only from our end, but as far as all the stakeholders are concerned,” he added.
Giving an update on operational activities, CEO Persaud noted that, as of Friday afternoon, the containers with the ballot boxes containing the ballots and other materials for the various polling stations had been moved to their respective locations, while mock polls were being conducted by the Returning Officers in the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs).
“We sent out the containers, or, in some cases, secured Canter trucks to cater for Local Authority Areas. The last containers were completed this (Friday) morning. Those containers will be distributed later today (Friday), to complete logistical arrangements to ensure ballot boxes are at predetermined locations,” Persaud said.
“The Returning Officers of the respective LAAs are conducting mock polls towards ensuring that they are ‘prepped’ to the point of maximum readiness for conduct of poll.”
Persaud reassured the media that at the very least, agents of the two major political parties have been involved at every stage of the various preparation activities.
“As we go into the movement of the containers this afternoon, agents were fully involved, and we have not received any complaints, or expression of dissatisfaction, that we are not in compliance with any laws or policies of the Commission,” Persaud added.
According to Persaud, the Secretariat has implemented a decentralised supervisory structure, which entails the appointment and strategic positioning of Deputy Returning Officers in large LAAs, and the appointment of supervisors who have some oversight responsibilities, such as providing guidance so far as compliance with statutory requirements are concerned.
“They will be out there, even up to the point of ascertaining the elections and results of those elections,” Persaud said, before adding, “We are confident that we are 100 per cent fully staffed for the conduct of Local Government Elections.”
Results are expected to start coming in during the night of the elections, particularly as it pertains to the uncontested LAAs and constituencies. However, GECOM has up to five days after the elections to declare the winner.
“I do not envisage any difficulty whatsoever for the ROs to declare before midnight. This could be affected by agents objecting to the count of [the] RO. Agents themselves will be in possession of Statements of Poll, and the RO will be holding up the Statements of Poll for persons who are there to observe the count,” Persaud said.
“We will, with due utmost care, ensure the ascertainment of results are done accurately, and with the involvement of those persons authorised to be there,” he added.
In terms of bringing awareness to the hosting of the LGEs, Persaud said GECOM has conducted a very comprehensive civic and voter registration regime, through the publishing of infomercials, advertisements in the media, and engaging interactively across the country wherever there are LAAs.
“Today, the last such activity was conducted around the Stabroek Market and bus park area, using PA systems, sharing flyers, and answering questions from the members of the public,” Persaud said.
For his part, Giddings also expressed his fullest confidence that the Commission is where it needs to be in terms of readiness for the elections, and with enough procedures in place to ensure credible elections.
According to Giddings, the “mistake” that played out at the 2020 General and Regional Elections has allowed the Commission to compile a compendium of lessons learnt that will ensure better holding of polls.
“In planning for these elections, we would have made some adjustments in how we do things, to avoid any untoward activity in the past, to increase efficiency. I was there on the ground at every juncture, and I have the fullest of confidence that we are where we need to be,” Giddings said.