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GECOM to consider immigration records with observation reports

GECOM Chairman Claudette Singh flanked by (left to right) PPP-aligned election commissioners Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick, and Sase Gunraj as wells as pro-coalition commissioners Charles Corbin, Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) appeared to have opted to consider immigration records while examining the observation reports after the recount of the three-month old general and regional election votes is completed by June 13, officials said.

The issue was discussed on Monday by the seven-member commission, shortly after a GECOM spokeswoman confirmed that 172 of 207 persons did not arrive or return to Guyana on or before March 2, 2020 when general and regional elections were held.

Elections Commissioners Vincent Alexander and Robeson Benn have confirmed separately that the issue would come up again during consideration of the observation reports.

“The Commission is still to consider observation reports. That matter will be dealt with then,” Alexander  told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News. “It will be considered I guess when we have the summaries of observation reports,” Benn said.

Alexander said GECOM has received more names of people believed to have been overseas on polling day but whose names were ticked off as having voted. “We have received more names and I expect the said course of action to be taken,” he said.

Benn said no one knows exactly whether those persons actually voted and for whom, given the fact that people sign off on who has voted and there are picture folios.  He believed that A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was using the issue of people having been overseas on polling day as a “ruse to create a narrative to cause trouble.”

But, Alexander appeared comfortable with the information that was provided by Police Commissioner, Leslie James, who is also the Chief Immigration Officer, to GECOM Chairman, Claudette Singh at her request. “Names have been sent and responses received. They have verified that persons who were voted for were out of the country,” Alexander said.

Alexander, a pro APNU+AFC Commissioner, virtually ruled out GECOM having to re-open already recounted ballot boxes to examine voters’ lists to ascertain whether the names of those persons, who were said to be overseas on March 2, 2020, were underlined or ticked as having cast ballots. “There is no need to. There is little or no difference between what’s on the pink lists. However, those serial numbers were already verified at the stations as persons who voted,” said Alexander, the longest serving elections commissioner.

The People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) Benn related that APNU representatives at the recount have lists from areas and would call out 70 or more names then ask if they were ticked off. He said APNU+AFC agents on polling day should say whether those persons voted as they had lists outside polling stations and were ticking off persons’ names.

The PPPC, The Citizenship Initiative, A New and United Guyana, and Liberty and Justice Party have all expressed concern about the legality of GECOM conducting its own investigations into alleged irregularities. Instead, those parties want GECOM to declare the results based only on the count rather than considering the observation reports.

Those political parties believe the results can be challenged only after a declaration by an elections petition in accordance with Guyana’s constitution.