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Having read the Attorney-General`s (AG`s) response (“Names that are constitutionally authorized to be on the voters` list can never be considered ‘bloated’”), to the Opposition Leader`s and Lowe`s letters, on the so called “bloated list”, I feel compelled to expose the heavy weather that the AG is making of the word “bloated”, as he denies and ignores the essence of the matter about which Norton and Lowe are concerned. A matter which cries out for attention.
In his letter, the AG fleetingly and pellucidly identified the contentious matter in relation to the voters` list. He wrote, “That dead persons are disqualified from being on that list and ought to be removed”. Beyond that admission he contradicts himself and implicitly argues for the retention of the dead on the list.
On the recent occasion of the consultations on the electoral reform, and in a letter to the press I argued that the drafting of laws is done with the intent of preventing the occurrence or reoccurrence of a specified wrong doing (mischief). In that regard, one of the ills that the reform of the Representation of the People Act ought to address is the impersonation (fraudulent voting) such as occurred at the 2020 elections. There is verified and irrefutable evidence, provided by the responsible agencies, that votes were cast for persons not present.
The argument that the mechanisms are in place to prevent fraudulent voting has been confuted, beyond doubt, by the fact that such voting did occur.
What is also factual is that there are thousands of registered Guyanese who have died overseas. In the words of the AG “dead persons are disqualified from being on that list and ought to be removed”. The challenge is that no mechanism has been activated to deal with this matter and the very AG defends the faulty list, although he admits ‘that the dead ought to be removed’.
Notably, in 2005, the People`s Progressive Party administration recognized the issues associated with regulating the presence of migrants’ names, many of whom would have died, on the Register of Registrants and consequently on the Voters` List. Hence, the Regulations under the Nation Registration Act was enacted. Regulations 40. (2) and (3), respectively, address this issue.
40.(2)“The Chief Immigration Officer shall send to the Commissioner once in every three months a report of the , names, the dates of departure from Guyana or return to Guyana, as the case may be, and the residential addresses, as disclosed under the preceding paragraph, of all persons who have, prior to the date of such report; disclosed any such change as mentioned in that paragraph and whose departure or return on the said dates has not been referred to in any previous report under this paragraph”
40.(3) “The Commissioner shall, in so far as practicable, ascertain to his satisfaction whether a change in the residence or domicile of every person named in each report as aforesaid has taken place and, in the event of a change in that person residence being so ascertained, his new residential address; and the Commissioner, when satisfied that it is so to do, shall cause the person`s registration to be cancelled under regulation 38(1)(e), or altered as if a claim had been made in that behalf under regulation 14(1), as circumstances permit. The Commissioner referenced is the Commissioner of National Registration/Chief Elections Officer.
I quoted the aforementioned regulations to demonstrate that the issue was identified and a mechanism, though not used, had been established, by the PPP regime, to provide for the deletion of non-residence/ overseas Guyanese from the Register and the Voters` List with the proviso for their re-inclusion, if they wished to benefit from their constitutional entitlement. Such a provision would have undoubtedly also dealt with the deletion, from the Register, of the thousands of Guyanese who have died overseas, yet they remain on the Register of Registrants and the Voters` List as if the dead have such an entitlement.
Rather than being caught up with Norton`s and Lowe`s contention about a bloated list, the AG, ostensibly the People’s defender, should attend to the elimination of the names, of those not in a position to exercise their right or the deceased, from the list and in so doing reduce the size of the list and the misuse of listed names to perpetrate fraudulent voting, as was unearthed in the 2020 recount.