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PPP elections commissioners demand withdrawal of GECOM’s house-to-house registration ads

PPP-nominated election commissioners Sase Gunraj Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn.

The three Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-backed elections commissioners on Sunday called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to withdraw advertisements for staff to conduct house-to-house registration.

The commissioners – Bibi Shadick, Robeson Benn and Sase Gunraj – insisted that the seven-member Commission never voted to conduct house-to-house registration. “The Commission has not taken a decision to commence House to House Registration and as a consequence, these advertisements are perplexing, at best,” they said.

The advertisements are for the the positions of Assistant Registration Officer and Enumerator, both of which are temporary positions “for house-to-house registration”. The deadline for submitting applications is March 15, 2019.

Instead, the trio grasped the opportunity to reiterate that GECOM should instead begin preparations to hold general and regional elections this year. “In light of the foregoing, we call on the Secretariat of the Guyana Elections Commission to immediately withdraw the advertisements and with similar immediacy, commence the preparation for the conduct of elections in the manner and time specified by law,” the commissioners said.

However, GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Warde is on record as saying that the Commission had by majority voted to inform President David Granger, to continue its routine work for 2019. That, she has said, essentially includes ensuring that the current voters list remains valid after it expires on April 30, 2019 while at the same time conducting house-to-house registration.

Deeming GECOM’s decision to go ahead with house-to-house registration a “flagrant disregard” for its constitutional mandate, the PPP-backed commissioners expressed “great concern” about the placement of the advertisements in the newspapers on March 3, 2019.

Shadick, Benn and Gunraj lamented GECOM’s refusal to prepare for general and regional elections, despite the National Assembly’s approval of a no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018. Guyana’s constitution states that elections must be held within three months of the passage of the motion, but the PPP has accused GECOM of conspiring with the government not to prepare for the polls from December 22, 2018.

“Despite our repeated requests, both within the Commission and publicly, for the Secretariat to commence preparations for the conduct of elections, no step has been taken in this regard. Instead, one excuse after the other has been proffered as for the delay on such commencement. The latest excuse of funding is, in our opinion, a contrived attempt to cause further delay,” the commissioners said.

They maintained that house-to-house registration was unnecessary at this time because “there are several legally prescribed processes for the revision of the electoral roll to enable the conduct of elections.” “These processes ought to be utilized in light of the constitutionally mandated timeline for the holding of the elections aforesaid,” they said.

Pro-coalition GECOM Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Desmond Trotman and Charles Corbin speaking with the media outside GECOM’s headquarters after a statutory meeting.

The ruling coalition and its commissioners have been calling for house-to-house registration to weed out the names of deceased persons and emigrants while ensuring that persons are registered in the area where they live.

President David Granger has invited Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to meet with him on Wednesday (March 6) to discuss an extension of the life of the National Assembly beyond the 90 days that expire on March 21. Such an extension requires two-thirds of the National Assembly’s support. The President is also expected to discuss financing for the general elections with Jagdeo, although the money could be approved by a simple majority.

The Finance Ministry has advised GECOM that it could not spend the GYD$3 billion which has been allocated for house-to-house registration, on elections and instead would need to seek the National Assembly’s approval for more money. The PPP disagrees with this too.

So far, the Opposition Leader has publicly refused to meet with the President unless an election date is set.

House-to-house registration can take nine months although coalition-backed elections commissioner, Vincent Alexander hopes to convince other commissioners and GECOM’s administrative staff that it can be done in six months.