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House to house registration to begin in three weeks

Chairman of GECOM, James Patterson, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers.

A top administrative official of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) late Thursday afternoon disputed claims that there was a delay in the commencement of house-to-house registration due to procurement hiccups, and said that process is set to begin in another three weeks.

The official explained that now that training of staff has been completed, an evaluation would be done before selected persons are appointed and given a refresher training. The high-level official noted that even after persons are appointed, they might opt out and would have to be replaced.

That process, the GECOM officer, who is intimately involved in all the plans and preparations, said GECOM never announced that house-to-house registration would have started in early June, 2019. “GECOM has not ever issued an official start date for the field work,” the official said.

That official explanation appeared to run counter to two separate accounts by officials of the seven-member commission who told Demerara Waves Online News that the delay was due to the fact that the procurement of materials was not finalised.

Another source added, “all the elements did not flow in accordance with the strict timelines”. The source added that there were some “hitches” related to acquiring materials. The source said only the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield would be aware of the new commencement date.

That, according to the source, would now see the house-to-house registration exercise commencing in another two weeks. However, the GECOM official assured that that would not cause a slippage in the timetable that could see the authority being ready to conduct general elections in November, 2019.

GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward described the delay as “no major pushback” and “the commission will announce the time”.

Word that the house-to-house countrywide registration first surfaced when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said GECOM would not be commencing the exercise as had been scheduled. He said Executive Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Zulfikar Mustapha called the Chief Elections Officer who confirmed that the registration exercise would not begin in early June.

The PPP, through a United Kingdom-based Guyanese pensioner, has since challenged the constitutionality of house-to-house registration on the grounds that such a process would see thousands of overseas-based Guyanese being taken off the existing voters’ list and being unable to return to cast their ballots.

The National Assembly recently approved GYD$3.4 billion for GECOM to prepare for general elections. Guyanese going to the polls before August 2020 largely depends on two pending decisions by the Caribbean Court of Justice on the validity of last December’s no-confidence motion and President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of James Patterson as GECOM Chairman although Jagdeo had proposed 18 names.