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A national stakeholders’ consultation on the draft amendments to Guyana’s electoral laws was held on Tuesday October 25, 2022, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Alexander’s full text follows
As the representative of the International Decade for the People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDAPADA-G), I attended the recent consultation on the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act and the National Registration Act. At that forum, I made an initial presentation and was given the undertaking that I would be allowed a further intervention, before the consultation concluded. That commitment was not honoured.
My raised hand was ignored before the Attorney-General, who spoke for more than half of the time allocated for the consultations, was given the floor to wrap-up. My subsequent attempt to have the commitment honoured was greeted with the response that time had expired. I noted that in wrapping-up, the Ministers encouraged those present to make written submissions in the instance where they had further contributions to make.
Though not optimistic about the seriousness of that invitation, given my experience of being denied an opportunity that was promised; and the tenor of comments in the media emanating from the aforementioned Government Ministers, I still feel compelled, on behalf of those who I represent and in fulfillment of my civic responsibility, to use this medium to communicate our thoughts, on the amendments, which I was not given the opportunity to present at the consultation.
I note, the Attorney-General`s comment to the effect that he had been following my public comments on the reform process. As a precursor to presenting my substantive thought, I wish to indicate that my contribution is premised on the practice of legislators to propose laws or amendments with the aim of curbing a known mischief (wrong doing or act that is undesirable). Such an act, in this instance, is the casting of votes in the names of persons who are either not present, such as those overseas, or dead.
Such acts, at the 2020 elections, were respectively verified by the relevant authority or instrument, namely the Chief Immigration Officer and the presentation of Death Certificates. I have also taken into consideration that the Chief Justice`s ruling, in relation to the deletion of names from the National Register of Registrants and the Voters List, has forbidden the remedy, which was previously used, to wit the retirement of the Register of Registrants and the creation of a new register based on a fresh registration process.
The only remedy still available is the removal of names based on the submission of the list of registered deaths, to GECOM, by the Registrar of Births and Deaths or the submission of Death Certificates during the Objections process. In this regard, it should be noted that there is no routine mechanism for the removal of the names of the thousands of Guyanese who die overseas.
In the aforementioned circumstance, I am recommending that the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, which provide for the elector ‘to hand his or her identification paper to the poll clerk’, be amended to provide for the elector to also have his or her finger prints, electronically, matched with those of the named elector which was captured at the time of registration, as the basis for the determination of his or her identity and eligibility as a particular voter/elector/ registrant.
The proposed amendment (the use of electronic finger-print identification at the place of poll) seeks to ensure that only eligible voters are allowed to vote. It addresses the known mischief (the casting of votes for a dead person or any other person, excluding a proxy voter, on the list who does not present himself or herself to vote). It also provides for the adherence to the popular interpretation of the Chief Justice`s ruling.
Why would anyone, who has an interest in free, fair and compliant elections, not embrace this proposal?