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Face with court action filed by attorney-at-law Roysdale Forde SC, against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Attorney General Anil Nandlall SC, and Chief Elections Officer and Commissioner of Registration Vishnu Persaud, he has proposed to Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh the Commission act to correct the Register of Voters (RoV) for the Local Government Elections (LGE). LGE is scheduled for March 13,2023
Last Friday, Ms. Carol Smith Joseph, Opposition Chief Scrutineer, via Forde, filed two ‘Urgent Fixed Date Application’ in the High Court challenging GECOM’s preparedness and readiness for the LGE.
Smith Joseph is asking the court for declarations GECOM violated the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap. 28:03 as amended by Act No. 15 of 2015 in the compilation of the Preliminary List of Voters for LGE; the compilation of the List of Electors for LGE pursuant to Section 5 (6).
The applicant is also asking the court for declarations GECOM violated Section 11 of the Act as amended by Act No. 9 of 2015 for the compiling of the Preliminary List of Voters for the Local Authority.
The applicant is further asking the court for declarations to have GECOM act in accordance with the Act, particularly Sections 12, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23 in the preparation of a RoV for use at Elections for Local Authority Areas.
And if GECOM fails to comply with Sections 12, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23 of Act and the said Act in general, it renders the RoV for LGE, null, void and of no legal effect.
The second ‘Urgent Fixed Date Application’ presented several exhibits to support the applicant’s contention GECOM has not been acting in compliance with the Local Authorities Act.
Persaud in a letter to Singh, dated December 3 and seen by Village Voice, stated the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) is a major parliamentary stakeholder in the conduct of elections in Guyana. Therefore, the concerns raised by the coalition, as a political entity, and the Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners cannot be ignored.
In his ‘Proposal for the Conduct of an Exercise to Correct the Registers for Voters for Local Government Elections,’ the CEO pointed out the coalition is concerned that notwithstanding the provision of Section 5(6) of the Act, “the current RoVs were not extracted in compliance with the provisions outlined in the Act.
Persaud, while not acknowledging his responsibility as CEO to ensure compliance with the Act, every step of the process, and it was he who advised GECOM’s of the agency’s preparedness and readiness for the election stated: –
“ …it must be of greatest importance and urgency [GECOM] is not seen, whether justifiably or by perception, to be unmindful of the concerns of a major political stakeholder[ and the risk] to do so would attract the condemnation that the Commission did not comply with the standards of transparency and inclusivity.”
At the Commission level GECOM was repeatedly advised by Opposition-nominated commissioners of the violations of the Act. However, the CEO now advises the Chairperson, continuing along the path of excluding the legitimate concerns of the coalition “would have deleterious effects on the character and reputation of the Commission, as it would be on the outcome of the election.”
Persaud therefore proposed the Commission approve the “conduct of a 14-day exercise under Section 24A ‘Correction of Registers by Election Commission,’ for the said elections.”
The extension, the CEO said, would allow for:
i. Correction of the Registers Exercise;
ii. all correction to the registers subject to approval by the commission;
iii. the RoVs be posted at two buildings within each division/sub-division in each local authority (which will take about seven days to complete);
iv. the district office will be staffed to deal with the various transactions;
v. new electors’ fingerprints will be cross matched before entry into the relevant register is made.
A staff of GECOM, who requested anonymity to speak on the matter, said the 14-day timeline is unrealistic. The staffer told Village Voice the enter situation is “a mess because those in authority have been ignoring the advice of those who understand how the system works.”
Meanwhile, Persaud said if his proposal is accepted it would mean LGE will “be further delayed [but] the value to be derived from the unimpeded involvement of all concerned …is of greater importance.”
According to the CEO, his proposal is to ensure the upcoming LGE “to not only be free, fair and credible, but to be seen by all concerned as being free, fair and credible.”
The Opposition has repeatedly warned the electoral regime for LGE is different from the General and Regional Elections and GECOM was conflating the two, resulting in dire consequences and likely fall-out.
GECOM commissioners meet on Tuesday for their statutory meetings.
Watch this page for updates