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Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Roysdale Forde SC, speaking at the Opposition press conference Tuesday, said in the ‘Urgent Fixed Date Application’ exhibits were submitted showing in excess of 200 names on the Register of Voters (RoV) List in a particular constituency that should not be there.
Last Friday Opposition Chief Scrutineer, Ms. Carol Smith Joseph, who is being represented by Forde, approached the court seeking declarations GECOM violated the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap. 28:03 in several areas; and should the agency fail to comply with the Act, in its entirety, to render the RoV for Local Government Elections (LGE) “null, void and of no legal effect.”
Stating the reasons for approaching the court Forde said the matters were filed out of “necessity” given GECOM’s failure to act in accordance with the Act as required for LGE. He also expressed concern GECOM was “abandoning their responsibility and veering off from what was required.” Further, said Forde, the government has failed to ensure GECOM abides by the law.
The respondents in the matters are GECOM Chairperson, Justice Claudette Singh; Chief Elections Officer and Commissioner of Registration, Mr. Vishnu Persaud; and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall, SC
In apparent reaction to the filing, Persaud last Saturday (December 3) wrote to Singh proposing a 14-day reopening of the Claims and Objections period to allow for addressing concerns by the A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).
GECOM Thursday took the decision to postpone Nominations Day scheduled for Monday, December 12 and the Elections which was scheduled for March 13, 2022. Demerara Waves reported no new date is set for elections.
The Voters List, deceased and persons not resident in local authority boundary
According to Forde the list GECOM is using for the LGE cannot be used because it is a list generated for the General and Regional Elections. To vote and contest in LGE the voter or candidate has to reside with the local authority constituency. Further, he said there are many instances where persons’ names appeared on the constituency list when they ought not to.
Citing Region Five, particularly Constituency 3 (Onverwagt-Golden Grove area), the member of parliament said among who are not ordinary resident and not competent to vote in LGE because they do not fit the requirement of persons who should be on the list is Davina Alicia Dharamlall. According to Forde she is the sister of Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Nigel Dharamlall, but she “unfortunately passed over 10 years ago.”
It was also pointed out, by Forde, the law does not grant the minister authority to reconfigure boundaries that responsibility, by law, is GECOM’s. The law, the shadow minister said, vested the minister the authority to create local authorities not to reconfigure boundaries.
Consequently, the preparation of a list based on such exercise by the minister will impact negatively on LGE.
‘CEO’s first rodeo total disaster’
Responding to the question by journalist Mr. Adam Harris whether LGE are in shambles, Forde answered in the affirmative. The entire roll out mechanism necessary for LGE is completely in shambles, he declared.
“It is an embarrassment to the country and a shame; an embarrassment the first rodeo of the Chief Elections Officer turned out to be such a total mess, total calamity, and what is more worrying is the silence of the Chairman of GECOM.” The situation is “unacceptable” he charged.
Shadow Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Ganesh Mahipaul, said the APNU+AFC is not against LGE given, as evident in two LGE held during their five-year term. The comparison was made to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) 23 years in government and LGE held only once, i.e. in 1994.
Further, Mahipaul said, some of the coalition’s many concerns about the LGE are a proper Claim and Objections period and a credible voters list.
Reinforcing the coalition’s commitment to election he emphasised their desire is for a credible. “We want free and fair election and an election free from fear.” GECOM has to get its house in order to facilitate LGE and other elections, he expressed. At the same time he called on GECOM to host a press conference, face the public, and answer questions from reporters/journalists and other citizens.
Both Forde and Mahipaul said blame for the state of the List and (un) preparedness for LGE must be laid squarely at the government and GECOM.