PPP proposes break-up of Region Four to rig elections- PNCR’s Aubrey Norton

Last Updated on Friday, 12 November 2021, 17:49 by Denis Chabrol

Executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton on Friday accused the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration of splitting Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) into four sub-districts to rig future general and regional elections.

He does not believe that the break-up of Region/District Four is merely about the convenience of counting the votes in the highest populated region that has been plagued by controversy at general elections. Instead, he argues that the plan is to neutralise  votes in African Guyanese-dominated communities while allowing an advantage in Indo-Guyanese areas. “We are going to fight it vigorously because Region Four is one region and it has to stay as one region and if, per chance, you have to give reasons why Region Five and Six that you win aren’t broken up because we can break that up too and get a different result so it’s clearly a case of jerrymandering the boundaries and we will not allow them to jerrymander the boundaries,” he said.

Mr. Norton, who has his eyes set on becoming the next leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), vowed to mobilise supporters against the creation of four sub-districts in Region Four. “Only a fool would allow the People’s Progressive Party to divide Region Four into four,” he said.

The PNCR Executive member disagreed with the government’s publicly stated contention that the reason for the intended creation of sub-districts was a matter of making the counting process convenient. He said if it was merely a problem of inconvenience, the government could have instead propose that the votes be counted in the sub-districts separately and then brought together as Region Four. “The argument that it is the size of the regional population is a façade to hide the real intention; the real intention is to create a mechanism for the PPP to rig at the expense of the APNU+AFC (A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change) and for those who say I’m radical, if something like this comes, then it is not something you could deal with by talking to Anil Nandlall, you have to mobilise the nation against it because it is wrong,” he said.

He reasoned that if District Four is converted into four different entities, “right away it will become seats in Parliament because every region has to have a certain amount of seats representing the region.” Mr. Norton said if the PPP wins sub-districts in East Coast Demerara, East Bank Demerara and East Bank Demerara, it would create a disparity.

Pressed on whether he did not believe that the draft amendment to the Representation of the People Act that provides for four sub-districts to allow for easier counting, Mr. Norton said there was no need to do so but to merely to count the votes in each sub-district but the region stays as one. “That is simple commonsense. If you’re saying the problem is counting, you can count at those levels but they are brought together for the region. If you want to separate them and then they become separate entities, then you are not dealing with the problem of counting, you are creating a mechanism to give you an advantage; that will not fly,” he said.

The draft amendment to the Representation of the People Act did not state that additional parliamentary seats would be created with the break-up of Region Four into sub-districts. The intended amendment states that the Returning Officer then has to add together the total votes recorded for each list of candidates in each sub-district on the District Tabulation Form and record each total on the District Tabulation Form. It is only after immediately a ascertaining the total votes cast in favour of each list of candidates, the Returning Officer of district Region 4 shall publicly declare the total votes recorded for each list of candidates in district Region 4 on the District Tabulation Form.

Government has cited the experience of the tallying and declaration of results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections as the reason for reforming the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. The Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo had issued two different declarations and the then Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield had sought to remove more than 100,000 votes on the grounds that they had not been valid.

At the declaration made at the Region Four Returning Office on Hadfield and High Streets, APNU+AFC got 136,335 and PPPC 77,258, but the second declaration at the GECOM headquarters,  Mingo had said APNU+AFC won 136,057 and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) 77,231, while the Regional Elections saw APNU+AFC getting 130,289 and the PPP 74,827.