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High Court ruling outlaws Immigration, GECOM removing names of non-residents- Nandlall

Last Updated on Monday, 21 November 2022, 7:49 by Denis Chabrol

Mr Anil Nandlall    Mr Vincent Alexander

Attorney General Anil Nandlall says the Chief Immigration Officer and the Commissioner of Registration of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) cannot collaborate to remove the names of non-resident Guyanese from the national database of registrants.

“He fails to appreciate that insofar as that Regulation authorises the removal of names from the National Register of Registrants (NRR) on the basis of residency, it collides with the Constitution and is unlawful, null, void and of no effect. In any event, the ratio decidendi of the Chief Justice’s ruling on this issue in 2019, to which repeated reference has been made on previous occasions, has likewise outlawed that Regulation,” said Mr Nandlall.

He was at the weekend reacting to a suggestion by Election Commissioner Vincent Alexander that the regulations of the National Registration Act allows for the removal of non-resident Guyanese from the database of registrants.

Earlier this month on a People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) television and social media programme, stated that another means of reducing the number of names on the voters list is activate the use of the Regulations of the the National Registration Act that provide for the Chief Immigration Officer to periodically provide the Chief Registration Officer with the names of persons who have been out of the country for a prolonged period. He said that regulation further empowers the Chief Registration Officer to determine how those are names are treated for the register and the voters list. Also, he said the regulation allows such persons to make a claim to be placed on the list.

Mr Alexander and the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change have been maintaining that the voters list is bloated with the names of dead persons and emigrants, opening up  the possibility of voter impersonation. Latest available figures show that after the last cycle of continuous registration, the voters list now contains 682,000 names when compared to Guyana’s population of 750,000 persons. The opposition further calculates that there are an estimated 200,000 names of dead persons and emigrants on the list that must be removed. 

However, the High Court has ruled that residency is not a requirement to be on the voters list. The Attorney General has also said that given the fact that the names of registrants are legally in the database, that means that the list is not bloated.

Mr Nandlall further states that amendments to the relevant laws, when passed, will see the entrenchment of provisions for the Elections Commission to compulsorily remove the names of deceased persons from the database of registrants. “In respect of the removal from the list of persons who have died within the jurisdiction, the Government’s proposed statutory reforms will create a network of duties devolving
upon the Registrar of Births and Deaths, the Chief Medical Officer and the Commissioner of Police, to supply information regarding deceased persons to the Chief  Registration Officer at periodic intervals. The latter two officers will furnish information that will enable the system to capture deaths not registered with the former,” the Attorney General added.

The APNU and AFC have been demanding that a biometric system be put in place at polling stations countrywide for electors to first verify their identities by fingerprints before they are allowed to cast their ballots.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has publicly offered to support the government in amending Guyana’s constitution and the relevant law to not only put in place biometric system at polling stations but also to make residency a requirement to be placed on the voters list. However, the Attorney General has already signaled that government would not support such an amendment.

The Attorney General challenged Mr Alexander to come up with a system to remove the names of persons, who have died overseas, from the list.

In the run-up to the declaration of the results of the March 2020 general and regi0nal elections, the then governing APNU+AFC had obtained what it had said had been evidence from the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer and the General Registrar to prove that there had been voter impersonation of persons who had been overseas on polling day, and deceased persons.

But Mr Nandlall maintained that there is no evidence that that happens. “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the presence of dead
people on the list results in voter impersonation or fraudulent voting. There are sufficient checks and balances in place which are going to be furthered strengthened by amendments already tabled in the National Assembly, along with the creation of a series of offences carrying penalties as high as 10 years’ imprisonment, to prevent voter impersonation,” he said.