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House-to-house registration constitutional; residency not a condition for registration -Chief Justice

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Wednesday ruled that house-to-house registration is not illegal or unconstitutional but she urged the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to consider other forms of verification.

She also ruled that Guyanese previously registered and residing overseas could not be removed from the database named the National Register of Registrants. She said unless the persons change their addresses through a new house-to-house verification process or by registering at a district office, they would have to vote in the district in which they were registered.

She said the Caribbean Court of Justice did not fix or imply that general elections must be held by September 18, three months after the no-confidence motion was validated by the regional final appeal court.

The Chief Justice noted that the law provides for the General Registrar and the Chief Immigration Officer to play roles in verifying the register.

She urged GECOM to consider, in addition to house-to-house verification, other means by which the register could be verified to allow for the conduct of timely general and regional elections. “GECOM cannot operate as if it is in a normal elections cycle,” she said.

Among those in the packed courtroom were lawyers for the applicant for the registration process to be quashed, Christopher Ram, the Guyana Elections Commission and known supporters of the opposition People’s Progressive Party.

GECOM sources said more than GYD$1 billion has been spent on the registration process that has captured almost 200,000 persons since it commenced on July 20.

The seven-member elections commission is Thursday expected to consider the Chief Justice’s decision after which the Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh will advise the President.