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PPP denies house-to-house registration voted on at GECOM meeting

GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson and Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward.

In the wake of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) saying that the seven-member commission by majority agreed to go ahead with house-to-house registration, the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said that was not voted on at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners have communicated clearly that the specific issue of house-to-house registration was not discussed and voted on at today’s meeting,” the PPP said.

PPP elections commissioner, Robeson Benn, reacting to governing coalition elections commissioner Vincent Alexander’s account of what transpired at GECOM’s Tuesday statutory meeting, told Demerara Waves Online News “not true!”.

GECOM spokeswoman, Yolanda Ward told Demerara Waves Online News earlier Tuesday that the commission would revert to its 2019 work-plan and meet operationally on Wednesday to decide how to move ahead with the registration process. She said a cycle of continuous registration, including claims and objections, would be held after the existing list expires on April 30, 2019 while preparations continue for the house-to-house process.

Alexander said GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson voted with three of the elections commissioners in favour of the elections management authority proceeding with its “routine plan for 2019”. He explained that meant conducting house-to-house registration for which GYD$3 billion has been allocated in the 2019 national budget.

The PPP Headquarters, Freedom House.

The PPP laid the responsibility for Tuesday’s majority-approved decisions at the feet of what it called “the APNU+AFC Coalition Government-nominated Commissioners at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the unilaterally-appointed GECOM Chairman, James Patterson”.

According to the PPP, the Chairman and the coalition-backed elections commissioners “demonstrated their illogical willingness to toe the government line, and in so doing have made the Constitution of Guyana subservient to the will of GECOM.”

“The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) reiterates that the provisions of the Constitution are clear on the consequences of the successful passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly – the validity of which was upheld by the High Court following a ruling from the Chief Justice (ag),” that party said.

The PPP said by a 4-3 majority which included the GECOM Chairman, they decided to inform President David Granger that GECOM cannot conduct elections within 90 days after December 21, 2018, and that GECOM needs funding for elections.

According to the opposition party, GECOM could legally use the GYD$3 billion set aside for house-to-house registration, for general elections.

On the issue of GECOM not being ready to hold elections by March 2019, the PPP said GECOM was complicit in frustrating the timeline for the constitutionally due elections and there was no clear timeline on when that elections management authority could set a polling date. “Additionally, there has been no effort to make a decision on what obtains in the short-term. There has also been no decision at the level of the Commission on when GECOM will be ready for elections,” the PPP said.

GECOM has said it could take 148 days to hold general elections with the current voters list if it is refreshed through a claims and objections period, and nine months to conduct house-to-house registration.

The PPP concluded that GECOM’s decisions on Tuesday were aimed at influencing the Court of Appeal hearing applications by the Attorney General Basil Williams for a stay of the High Court’s decisions issued on January 31, 2019 that the President and Cabinet ought to have resigned immediately after the National Assembly’s passage of the no-confidence motion and elections should have been held within 90 days unless otherwise extended by a two-thirds majority of the 65-seat National Assembly. Williams also wants the Court of Appeal to grant a conservatory order to preserve the President and his Cabinet in office, pending the hearing and determination of Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire’s decisions.

Two appeals have been filed so far.

“The Constitution make clear that the judiciary cannot extend the deadline for which General and Regional Elections are constitutionally due; rather such an act remains in the remit of the Legislature,” the PPP added.

General elections had been constitutionally due the latest by August 2020, but since the passage of the no-confidence motion almost two months ago, there is uncertainty when Guyanese would go to the polls to elect a new government of their choice.