A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party at the weekend said a decision by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to conduct house-to-house registration was invalid because the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) found that the appointment of the Chairman of that seven-member body was unconstitutional.
According to that recently-formed political party, the governing A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition has been misleading Guyanese by claiming that GECOM had agreed to conduct house-to-house registration. With the three pro-opposition elections commissioners against house-to-house registration, ANUG said Retired Justice James Patterson, whose appointment was struck down by the CCJ, used his casting vote with the three pro-government elections commissioners to decide that house-to-house registration must be conducted before the next general elections.
“The resulting tie was broken by the casting vote of Justice James Patterson, the Chairman unilaterally appointed by the President. But since that appointment was done in violation of the Constitution the entire process is vitiated. In any event, a casting vote by Patterson will not inspire the confidence of at least half of the population,” ANUG said.
Publicly recommending a consequential order to the CCJ when it meets on Monday, ANUG wants the CCJ to instruct President Granger to pick one of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman and avoid further delay in holding general elections.
“The result will be a Chairman in whom Guyanese may repose their confidence and trust, two conditions which are sadly lacking in our vicious political arena. Anything else will simply protract Guyana’s unhappy difficulties created at the hands of the two parties,” the party said.
The three pro-government elections commissioners are Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, while the three People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-backed counterparts are Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn.
The CCJ has ruled that based on the evolution of Guyana’s constitution, its provision for inclusionary democracy, and the trend towards openness, fairness and transparency, the President must give reasons for rejecting the Opposition Leader’s nominees. The court has ruled that the process must now specifically include the Opposition Leader proposing six nominees to the President. They will then consider the names, finalise the list of those that are not unacceptable to the President after which the Opposition Leader will submit the list from which the Head of State and Government would pick one.
Jagdeo has said he is ready to submit a new list to the President who has since invited him for talks about the political situation at a date to be specified after the CCJ issues its consequential orders.
No “bloated and defective” list
ANUG also dismissed the David Granger-led coalition’s claim that the voters’ list was bloated with about 200,000 defective names and that as much as 10,000 names of youths would be disenfranchised because their names are not on the voters’ list. “The process is straightforward and seamless, and has worked for over a dozen years without any difficulty, and the President’s bald statement that the list is bloated, expired and corrupt is simply not true,” the party said.
According to that party—whose leaders include Senior Counsel and former House Speaker Ralph Ramkarran, Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas and former government minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey—the process for adding and removing names from the voters’ list has been time-tested without any problems.
The party said when the President of Guyana announces a date for national elections, the Elections Commission is obligated to extract from the National List and place on the Voters’ List the names of those persons who are 18 years and over or will be 18 and over on the date announced for elections. The Voters’ List is then published, and copies are placed prominently at places of poll during a statutory period of claims and objections, according to ANUG, during which any Guyanese may scrutinize the list to object to any names which should not be on the list or any names wrongfully omitted from the list.
Further ANUG said Section 6(A) of the National Registration Act provides that the Elections Commission shall use the official list of electors from the 2001 general and regional elections as the base to commence continuing registration. This provision was inserted by Parliament in 2005.
“The intention of Parliament was that there should be a continuing process by which the list was updated by introducing new young citizens who reached the age of 14 years and removing deceased citizens. ANUG explained that a method to accomplish this is set out in the Regulations passed under that Act, which provides a machinery for young Guyanese who reach the age of 14 years to be placed on the list, and for deceased Guyanese to be removed from the list. This is done in periodic cycles as part of the continuous process.