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Opposition-appointed Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Mr. Vincent Alexander, made known that him and fellow appointed Commissioners differ with the report submitted by Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Mr. Vishnu Persaud, that the demarcation of constituency boundaries from November 2022 to January 2023, met the standard requirement.
In a release Tuesday Alexander stated the seven-member Commission haggled over the issue before arriving at a decision, but they opposition-appointed commissioners differ based on several reasons.
First, the commissioner said, the criteria and procedures (geography, community, and population) for the demarcation of constituencies previously used were thrown out.
“The Chairperson and the Government appointed commissioners argued that no minutes could be found to show that they had been approved. The CEO previously argued that there were no points of reference of the previously developed and used procedures and criteria. Documents were produced to show that they existed. He then resorted to contend that there were no approved minutes.”
Second, according to the commissioner, “the records clearly show that the procedures and criteria that were discussed from May 2009 to December 2009 were actually implemented and were the basis for the configuration of constituencies in 2016 and 2018.”
Third, the CEO in his own words articulated that he and his staff determined what criteria (population and a distorted concept of geography) should be applied, Alexander noted
Further, “the Commission threw out collectively determined criteria and procedures and accepted the validity of a report that resulted from a process that was crafted by the CEO, deficient and never approved by the Commission.”
The fourth reason Alexander said is that the report, “represents exactly what the Minister had illicitly sought to foist on GECOM. In other words, GECOM has now clothed the Minister’s illicit act with its approval”.
On December 9, 2022, GECOM via a release, reported that Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh SC stated, “if the Minister sought to form or change the configuration of constituencies within those areas, he would have usurped the power granted to the Commission to combine and sub-divide electoral divisions to form constituencies. If such were the case, the Minister would have acted outside of his legal remit.”
In the said statement, GECOM said the Commissioners had agreed the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Nigel Dharamlall has no authority to “form or change the configuration of constituencies within those areas,” and that authority lies with GECOM. GECOM only broke its silence after the public was apprised the minister’s action was not in keeping with the law.
Last October the Minister redrawn the boundaries as per Order No. 44 of 2022 – The Local Democratic Organs (Neighbourhood Democratic Councils) (Amendment) Order 2022, which was gazetted.
The fifth reason raised by the commissioner is that the opposition-appointed commissioners reserved the right to provide statistical evidence to show that the proposed boundaries are simply acts of gerrymandering aimed at giving the PPP an unfair advantage in the upcoming Local Government Elections.
As the sixth reason, Alexander stated that while GECOM’s discussion so far was about the validity of the report, the Government-appointed commissioners are insisting that there should be no discussion on the content of the report.