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Local govt elections machinery rusty – PPP Commissioners on GECOM

FLASH BACK: One of the PPP-affiliated GECOM Commissioners , Athmaram Mangar being sworn in before President Donald Ramotar.

In the wake of repeated calls by Western Diplomats for the Donald Ramotar administration to call long-delayed Local Government Elections, three Election Commissioners affilated to the ruling party on Saturday said the electoral machinery is not well-oiled.

That is in stark contrast to a GECOM source saying earlier this week that the electoral management body needs 180 days to prepare for the polls due since 1997. That official has said that the commission already has funds budgeted, a work-plan and demarcated boundaries. All they will need, according to the source, are the recruitment and training of personnel, identification and verification of eligble candidates, claims and objections of electors and the printing of ballot papers. 

The position by the PPP-nominated commissioners came almost two weeks after the United States (US) and Guyana governments openly collided over what then American Ambassador, Brent Hardt had summed up as inconsistent explanations and lame excuses by Ramotar and the PPP General Secretary for not holding the elections in accordance with Guyana’s constitution and laws. The United Kingdom (UK) has said the failure to do so was a stain on Guyana’s democracy and a violation of the Commonwealth Charter.

But the three commissioners- Mohamood Shaw, Dr. Keshav Mangal and Athmaram Mangar- who were nominated by the governing Peoples’s Progressive Party (PPP) said several parts of elections machinery for Local Government Elections was somewhat rusty. “We believe that if these matters are not addressed, they can lead to disfranchisement. It is for these reasons that we reiterate our call for an exercise of caution regarding any declarations and assumptions of GECOM’s readiness,” they said.

Following is the full text of their statement.

We, the undersigned Commissioners, view, with immense concern, the calls for Local Government Elections and the declarations that GECOM is ready. We urge that these calls and declarations be treated with extreme caution. We will continue to work with the Chairman, our fellow Commissioners and GECOM’s Secretariat to address the following issues which are of concern:

Some operational issues that concern us and others include the following:

·         Constituency boundaries and demarcation issues:

o   Some constituency boundaries cut across established Divisions and Sub Divisions requiring field operations to effectively allocate existing registrants on the National Register of Registrants to a unique Constituency.

o   Resolution of transfers of numerous electors particularly to constituencies indicated in the above point.

o   Some constituencies do not have adequate registrants to effectively field adequate lists of candidates.

o   The analysis of the National Register of Registrants and subsequent printing of lists for Local Government Elections require operations that involve the Information Technology Division which is without key top level and appropriate staff.

·         There are also some key legislative issues including lacunae in Laws that govern Local Government Elections.

·         There needs to be a vigorous education programme to inform and educate the populace on the new local government elections system, which comprise a mixture of the Constituency and Proportional Representation models, in which political parties as well as individuals and interested groups may contest the elections.

·         The process to compile and analyze five hundred and eighty five (585) sets of nomination lists resulting in five hundred and eighty five (585) vetted two part ballot templates and subsequent printing of ballots will require significant time, effort and resources.

We believe that if these matters are not addressed, they can lead to disfranchisement.

It is for these reasons that we reiterate our call for an exercise of caution regarding any declarations and assumptions of GECOM’s readiness.