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GECOM disagrees with PPP commissioner on work plan submission deadline

Attorney-at-Law Sase Gunraj

Differences over when the optional general election work plans prepared by the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) should be submitted to an operations sub-committee emerged on Saturday.

Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPPC) elections commissioner, Sase Gunraj, who co-chairs the operations sub-committee, claimed that the seven-member Commission agreed on Friday that the work plan would have been presented to the elections commissioners by that day “so that it can be perused and digested for discussion by members” ahead of another full meeting of the Commission on Monday.

However, Gunraj said up to Saturday morning that had not been done, again raising concerns about an apparent deliberate intention to delay the process. “I have had cause to comment, both within GECOM meetings and publicly, about the obvious dilatory tactics that are being employed to prevent the commencement of preparations for holding of elections in the constitutionally mandated timeline. I view this as another such delay,” Gunraj said.

However, co-chair of the operations sub-committee, Charles Corbin told Demerara Waves Online News that the work plans are due to be presented this coming Monday. “The committee expects to receive stuff on Monday for consideration and for making recommendations to the Commission on Tuesday,” Corbin said in reaction to Gunraj’s statement to the media. Corbin is the governing coalition-nominated elections commissioner.

GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward indicated that the official records of the last GECOM meeting show that the decision was for the material to be submitted on Monday because that is when the administrative arm of the elections management authority said it could be done. “The Commission did request the revised work plans to be submitted on Friday for their discussion and perusal prior to next Tuesday’s meeting. However, at that meeting the DCEO [Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers] did advise that based on the magnitude of work to be done that it would be delivered on Monday and not on Friday,” Ward told Demerara Waves Online News.

The six government and opposition commissioners are equally split over whether there should be house-to-house registration. Next Tuesday’s GECOM meeting is expected to discuss the short-, medium-, and long-term timeframes for holding general elections.

The opposition People’s Progressive Party and its commissioners are calling for the elections to be held soonest, while the government and its commissioners are insisting that there should be fresh house-to-house registration because the current voters’ list is heavily padded.

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire last week rejected an application by Attorney General Basil Williams for a stay of her decision and a conservatory order. Williams’ application was based on the fact that the 90-day deadline by which elections should be held following the December 21st passage of the no-confidence motion expires on March 19th.

The Chief Justice has suggested that the application for the stay and order be made to the Court of Appeal where the government intends to take the case.

Guyana’s constitution also allows for the 90-day deadline to be extended by a two-thirds majority of the 65-seat House.