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Anil Nandlall, in his Tuesday’s letter in Stabroek News supporting bloated-list denialism, showed that he has not been closely following the debate on the issue. He conveyed the false impression that the APNU+AFC Opposition only last week conveyed its readiness to engage in implementing the necessary constitutional and statutory amendments, following Chief Justice Roxanne George’s ruling on residency. In fact, the Opposition Leader announced that position since August and several times since.
At a press conference in August, Mr. Norton stated: “Recent pronouncements by both the GECOM Chairperson and 2nd VP Bharat Jagdeo gave the deliberate false impression that the election laws of the country are cast in stone and are forever unchangeable. Guyanese know better. Many would recall that in 1990, then President Desmond Hoyte agreed to postpone elections to facilitate constitutional and other amendments which saw, for instance, the enactment of the Carter formula (as Article 161 of the constitution) and, for the first time, counting at the place of poll.”
Mr. Norton then continued: “APNU+AFC hereby goes on record that we stand ready to discuss and support the necessary constitutional and other amendments to ensure a clean voters list as a necessary condition to ensure that the next elections are free, fair, and credible.”
That settled, the fact of the matter is that the Preliminary Voters List contains 684,354 names. This is over 90% of the total population! It follows that the National Register of Registrants (populated by those Guyanese 14 years and older, and from which the voter list is extracted) must be greater than our total population. This is an absurdity we must correct.
Gail Texeira, Nandlall’s fellow bloated-list denier, recognising the farce these numbers expose, recently tried to dilute matters by claiming the total population has increased. Regardless, if there are 200,000 ineligibles on a list, that number remains 200,000 whatever the size of the population. Not surprisingly, therefore, since 2020, the international elections observers have all called for new registration and a new list.
In his letter, Mr Nandlall finally settled on a better point. Referring to persons who have migrated, he asked: “Should they be denied that crucial democratic right to vote, in the land of their birth?”
Mr Nandlall’s legal reasoning on constitutional rights often exposes a simplistic absoluteness as opposed to a framework that balances competing rights and requirements. Yes, as he stated, the right to vote is sacred. But so too are free, fair, and credible elections. To achieve balance, your sacred right to vote is constrained by certain restrictions and obligations (for example: you cannot vote if you are not registered) to ensure the election results truly reflect the will of the people.
To throw more sand in our eyes, the AG claimed that the widespread demand for a clean list would disenfranchise persons who are overseas for medical, business, or other temporary reasons. Mr Nandlall knows better. He knows that registration is kept open for as long as possible before an election so that those persons can get registered when home.
Lastly, it may be good to quote GECOM’s 2008 press release on the start of the country’s last H2H exercise—which the PPP signed onto. The commission stated the primary objective is ‘to establish an accurate, complete and current National Register of Registrants’ Database (NRRDB).” GECOM went on to declare that “The imperative to conduct House-to-House Registration was born out of the need for the creation of an indisputable NRRDB which could be used as the basis for the preparation of Electoral Lists that would be commonly acceptable by all stakeholders as being unblemished.”
In 2015, seven years later, the PPP announced it still supported these objectives. Why the change of mind since?