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If we go into the election with that [voters] list, we are going to have other problems. Under the Local Government Elections (LGE) regime, in relation to election, you can’t take an Official List of Electors (OLE) from the General and Regional Elections and use it, because the entire regime is governed by another act; the Local Government Act, which speaks about how the list is arrived at for the Local Government Authorities, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities which is not being done, and we feel it is illegal and will not facilitate a fraud.”
Those are the emphatic words of Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), former Minister of Public Security, and Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan.
The 2020 National Recount unearthed more than 4000 persons who migrated and voted in the General and Regional Elections. The information was sourced from the Immigration/Police authority.
Ramjattan, speaking recently on Norman Browne’s show, said the AFC wants to minimise voter impersonation and it is important to the party that mechanisms be put in place to ensure this through a new house-to-house registration exercise and improved biometrics at the polls. “It is not either or but both.”
With no house-to-house registration the AFC is not going to LGE which is scheduled for March 13, 2023, the leader reiterated. Two Sundays ago, the Party announced it will not contest the election under the present conditions. “It is manifest that our electoral system is far from perfect, but we must not willfully perpetuate a deception on the people of Guyana. During the national election in 2020, there were multiple instances where dead people, the migrated, and a host of other shenanigans interfered with the electoral process. We should not go there again!”
Pointing out the house-to-house registration was done every eight years for the purpose of ensuring, as much as possible, there is a clean voters list, the party’s leader reminded the last house to house exercise was done 14 years ago.
Further, the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government had allocated $4 Billion in the 2019 Budget for new registration. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) began the exercise but aborted it. However, the names of new registrants were added to the existing bloated list. GECOM has since used the 2019 High Court’s ruling to inform its hands are tied in sanitizing the list as recommended by Guyanese and international observers missions to the 2020 Election.
On August 14, 2019, acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire SC ruled GECOM’s ongoing house-to-house registration exercise cannot be used to remove persons’ names from the National Register of Registrants outside of compliance with Article 159 of the Constitution of Guyana. But Ramjattan is not accepting this as a given or written in stone.
Bemoaning those looking at the 2019 ruling are using strict legalism; the member of parliament insisted a new house-to-house registration is still possible. According to him, it is crazy to argue names cannot be removed. The removal of names is not unconstitutional, and you are not disenfranchising anyone he contended.
If persons’ names are off the list during the new house to house exercise because they are not within the jurisdiction at the time of registration, they can get their names back on the list by presenting themselves to a registration office within their district, he explained.
The fundamental right of every stakeholder is not only to make the call for a new voters list but ensure the list is cleansed, the member of parliament advised.
Returning attention to LGE, the shadow minister pointed out that to qualify to participate a voter has to be resident in the area of that local government constituency. The resident requirement, he emphasised, is fundamental as per law. But this fundamental requirement the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, is seeking to remove by taking a Bill to the National Assembly to amend theLocal Government Act, informed the party leader.
Guyanese continue to agitate for a clean voters list and improved biometrics which the People’s Progressive Party had also demanded when in Opposition but has since gone silent with the return to government in 2020. President Irfaan Ali earlier this year said the list is not the problem.