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|By Mark DaCosta- The Guyana Elections Commission has issued a statement apparently in response to concerns raised by the political opposition regarding the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE). The PLE is the list generated by GECOM from which a final list will be extracted following a period of “claims and objections.” That final list will be the list of persons eligible to vote.
Regarding the PLE released by GECOM, Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton had said, “This bloated monstrosity alone provides sufficient grounds to question whether GECOM can deliver an election that accurately reflects the democratic will of the Guyanese people and wins their trust and confidence. This bloated list cannot.”
The PLE said Norton lists 684,354 names, equivalent to over 91% of Guyana’s population. Referring to overdue Local Government polls, the opposition leader said, “Despite these and other concerns, GECOM has forged ahead with election preparation as per norm. Chairperson Claudette Singh and the PPP commissioners continue to show total disregard for the concerns of the people of Guyana, inclusive of civil society. They continue to block and vote down the sensible resolutions of the Opposition commissioners.”
In its apparent response to opposition concerns GECOM released a statement, captioned “GECOM’s Operations Will Be Guided Only By Constitutional and Legal Provisions.” The statement said:
“The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has taken note of concerns and opinions in the public domain in relation to the existing Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) which was extracted from the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB). Whereas the various positions have been duly noted, and extensively ventilated at the meetings of the Commission, it was determined that GECOM cannot act contrary to the legal provisions enacted in the National Registration Act (NRA), Chapter 19:08.
“The NRA dictates the procedures for the registration of eligible persons and likewise the removal of any such persons from the NRRDB. In this regard, it is not that the concerns of stakeholders in relation to the PLE are being ignored, but GECOM must act within the framework of the Laws of Guyana.
“In view of the foregoing, it is hereby reminded that the eligibility requirement for registration is that one must be a Guyanese citizen by birth, descent, or naturalisation; or a citizen of a Commonwealth country living in Guyana for one year or more. Once persons have met those requirements and have been registered, their registration is and remains legal. It follows that any removal of their names from the NRRDB, without a legal basis, would be unlawful and unconstitutional.
“Existing legislation provides that the removal of names from the NRRDB can only be done through the legal methodology which includes the receipt of monthly reports from the General Registers Office (GRO) or through an Objections process, which allows for any elector, or suitably accredited Scrutineers of Political Parties, to object to the inclusion of names in the PLE whom they suspect may not be eligible. However, the burden of proof would be on the objector to present at the time of the relevant hearing(s) to substantiate the objection(s).”
Chief Election Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud has recently proposed February 13, 2023, as the earliest date that GECOM would be able to hold Local Government Elections (LGE). However, opposition members of the Commission are maintaining the position that LGE can and should be held on an earlier date.