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GECOM to chide supplier over failed stamps, contemplates increased security after polls close

GECOM Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally flanked by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield (left) and GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Richard Francois.;

by Zena Henry

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would be having a stern word with the suppliers of stamps used May 10, Election Day after they would have become dysfunctional just hours into the voting period.

At an press conference held at the  agency’s media centre High Street, the top officials reported that there were no major incidents reported just over six and a half hours into voting day, but added that the failure of stamps and more than one polling station was cause for concern.

Meanwhile, barring the beating and arrest of a man in TucVille for allegedly seeking to uplift ballot boxes, defective stamps being used to print the six-digit number on ballot papers and voting by an underage girl in Region Five, the coalition A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) reported that there was no major polling up to about 2 PM.

“The process has been satisfactory thus far….We are satisfied with the process as of now,” said APNU+AFC Co-campaign Manager, Raphael Trotman.

Chairman of the election body Dr. Steve Surujbally said that the agency would have purchased the stock of stamps from Code International, a foreign based company, “and we will have to deal with them. They have sent us substandard material and that is not acceptable.”

The chairman said it is the second time they have employees the company since the six digit stamp system was employed but it is the first time such a thing has occurred.

The stamps were tested and functioning at that time, the Chair said. He noted however, that he is particularly disturbed by the failures because “we paid our good money for the stamps and the stamps could not take on after 50 times of usages.”
The Chair did say that the agency might have to review in the future where they are getting the material from.
The issue of stamps came up where two to three digits on the device broke off after some usage and this caused some irritation in some locations. ““I feel we were cheated when we paid out good money,” he said.

The problem also arose in District six on two occasions and in District Two.

However all matters were rectified since additional stamps were issued to the almost 2300 polling stations across the country. GECOM has decided to that they will in future discuss where they get their stamp supplies to prevent a reoccurrence.

Outside of this GECOM is investigating other reports which were coming i  at the time of the press conference. These included two cases in South Georgetown where it is alleged persons showed up allegedly to remove ballot boxes. In one case, Turning Point in the TucVille area, it is alleged that one of those persons was caught by persons waiting to vote and handed over to the police.

The Commission said they have received no word of  their polling staffers being threatened or intimidated when the question  was asked.

Another report by the Commission was that in Region three GECOM staffers were disrespecting voters and while it was noted that the matter is being investigated, the Commission noted that, “being disrespectful to the elderly or any person tells me that you miscreant have not understood that the electorate is in fact our employers…they are not to be disrespected.”

Among the reports are those relating to decommissioned identification cards which would most likely portray the holder as looking younger. It was explained that those are not acceptable and persons were not allowed to vote with it.
The Commission addressed to the issue of security at polling stations after six will have to be addressed more seriously as it relates to persons wanting to cast ballots after the closure of polls.

Surujbally said, “I am worrying that people outside of the polling station feeling that in some way that they had a right to come late might want to storm the polling stations.”

Even though the Chair don”t see it happening or might occur as a single case, he felt one case might still be enough to create a blemish on the smooth flowing electoral and voting process.