Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally on Thursday challenged the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to produce evidence that there have been irregularities resulting in an increase in the number of registrants by 78,000 persons.
But PPP Civic General Secretary, Clement Rohee said his party does not have to provide the list of persons because the party has acquired that number from the list that GECOM has provided to political parties. Instead, Rohee said his party on Thursday asked the elections management authority to probe the appearance of those names. “We have written to them asking them to set up an investigation into the seventy-eight thousand names and to ensure that there is a high degree of quality control,” Rohee told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com). He said the PPPC was not calling for names to be struck off but for GECOM to first explain who the persons were and where they came from.
The Elections Commission Chairman stressed that Rohee would have to provide the evidence. “Until he (Rohee) gives me this and shares with me this evidence, it is sterile,” said Surujbally. He assured that irrespective of whether the PPP provides the information, GECOM would be reviewing its data and if there is a fault corrective action would be taken.
Responding to Rohee’s call for GECOM to provide a complete breakdown of the new registrants and their origin, the Chairman said the PPP and other political parties were being given such information after each registration cycle.
While Rohee contended that the trend has been not more than 15,000 additional names on the National Register of Registrants, the Elections Commission Chairman said this was not the first time that there has been such a large increase in registrants.
Against the background of a pending no-confidence motion in the House against the government that could see Guyanese going to the polls the latest by January 2015, Rohee declined to say definitively whether the PPPC would contest the general election before the list is cleaned up. “It is not insurmountable that they can’t get to the bottom to find out how to deal with it,” he said.
Surujubally identified major contributory factors for an increase in the number of persons acquiring birth certificates so that they could be registered to have a National Identification Card and eventually vote. Those are aggressive advocacy by political parties, public education by GECOM to have persons registered, migration of persons from the interior to housing schemes on the coastland, and the return of overseas-based Guyanese. “The fact of the matter is that there are tens of thousands of new birth certificates issued to people who have formerly not had birth certificates so obviously they are going to register and obviously the statistics are going to go up,” said Surujbally.
The Chairman dismissed the PPP’s claim of a steep surge in registrants happening only now. He recalled that since the Continuous Registration process began less than 10 years ago, there have been between 40,000 and 50,000 new registrants in the first three registration cycles.