GECOM has no power to tackle alleged forgeries but names are removed after concrete objections – Chief Election Officer

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 April 2023, 19:02 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Election Officer Vishnu Persaud.

Chief Election Officer of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM),  Vishnu Persaud on Wednesday said the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was not empowered legally to investigate allegations of forgery related to the nominati0n process for the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections (LGE), but said whenever objections are filed the contestants are informed of “defects” and changes are made.

Further, he said that election management body has not received any complaints about forged signatures and was not in a position to probe such allegations. “Even if they did, we do not have the wherewithal to investigate those things. The laws do not; we have no authority to go and investigate,” he said.

The Chief Election Officer said those claims would have to be reported to the police force, and at currently GECOM’s Secretariat- the administrative arm- could not engage that law enforcement agency because “we do not have the facts.” Mr Persaud said he expected those persons, who are affected by the alleged forgery, to file complaints to the police.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Tuesday said he planned to send details of alleged forgery to Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken.

According to the Chief Election Officer. political parties, voluntary groups or independent candidates must meet the criteria such as consenting to be candidates, and supporting signatories by a given number of nominators/ backers. “When they come to us, we ascertain the accuracy of the information provided to us. We were never charged and we are not charged with ascertaining whether the signatures on those forms are in fact the signatures of the people who purportedly they belong to and, therefore, we will never know whether it is a forged signature or not and we don’t have the capacity to investigate these things to determine whether they are false,” he added. Mr Persaud said in any case it is the person whose signature that is forged should make a report.

Mr Persaud said when people contact the Returning Office saying that their names were misrepresented in the nomination process, they are asked to put their objection in writing, accompanied by their identification cards. He said only then GECOM could remove their names and inform the contestants’ Representative of the Lists of defects that they need to remedy. “So far, we have been successful in that regard,” he said.

The Chief Election Officer said he instructed Returning Officers for the 70 Local Authority Areas that should anyone object to his or her name as a candidate or  a signatory object, that person needs to present his her or ID card because the ID number is on the forms. “Once they do that and they give something in writing, saying that they did not do that, we treat that as a defect because we would not recognise the name in the list as being valid and once we do that, we have a responsibility, we have an obligation to inform the Representative of that List that your list has now become defective as a result of this person giving us valid information to the extent that they did not consent to being on the list and then the onus is on the Representative of the List to correct that and that is what we are doing,” he said.

Mr Persaud could not say how many such objections have been received so far, but he said they have been coming from across the political divide.