…151 disputed names remain on list
……Chief Elections Officer goes missing at 11th hour
Persons whose names appeared on various voters’ lists for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) but had no knowledge of it were given the opportunity to have it corrected before the end of Wednesday, August 26, 2018.
This decision was made at the statutory meeting held at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday, when all Commissioners, including those nominated by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) were present.
However, on Wednesday when some of these persons turned up to have the issue rectified at the various GECOM facilities in their communities, they were blocked from doing so.
PPP GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn told <<<Guyana Times>>> on Wednesday that all assurances were given by GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield that once affidavits for each individual was produced, it would be corrected.
But Benn said that when these persons showed up to make the necessary changes they were told by the respective Returning Officers (RO) at the various polling stations that this could only be done if the head of a list could visit the polling station with a signed affidavit or the aggrieved person appeared in person, not one individual submitting for a group.
When this information was fed to the Opposition PPP, Benn said that attempts were made to contact Lowenfield but to no avail. He said this was bearing in mind that the deadline was 23:59h Wednesday and beyond that, no changes could be made to any list.
“All the staff of GECOM are reportedly unreachable at this point in time while, the ROs are refusing to have persons correct the ‘fraudulent’ inclusion of their name. We have tried to contact the CEO for … hours, but we haven’t managed to get him,” he explained.
Further, Benn said that in some cases, persons have reported being called and threatened not to make any changes if their names appear on the list. He is of the opinion that this is allowing for a situation where persons who never wanted their names on a list or a certain list having no avenue in which their names could be withdrawn.
“For us, it’s a problem, because it goes against an agreement and secondly, it goes against the wishes of persons who have listed themselves as nominators for particular parties or groups or persons who they want to support,” he lamented.
The GECOM Commissioner said reports have surfaced in areas such as: Crabwood Creek, Corriverton, Fifty One Good Hope, Whim, Bloomfield, Number 63, Berbice; and La Grange, La Jalousie and Canal Polder, West Bank Demerara.
At Whim Village on Wednesday evening, persons who were disputing that they signed their names on the Alliance For Change (AFC) list were invited to a meeting at 22:00h with the Returning Officer. Also invited to that meeting was AFC representatives in the area who took the signatures.
They failed to show at the meeting. As such, 51 persons who turned up with their sworn affidavits to have their names removed were allowed to have their names removed from the list.
Speaking with this publication, a resident said that an AFC official went around the village asking for signatures saying that he wanted to become a Justice of Peace and needed their support. According to the resident, that is how many persons signed the list not knowing that it would be used for LGE purposes.
However, some 151 persons from Crabwood Creek, Corriverton and Number 63, Berbice were unable to have their names removed from both the AFC and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) lists since the ROs claimed that they received no instructions from Lowenfield.
Meanwhile, PPP GECOM Commissioner Bibi Shaddick claimed that the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers had issued instructions to the ROs that the persons should bring the affidavits in person, contrary to what was discussed.
“Today (Wednesday) at La Grange, an RO was refusing to accept an affidavit from a Leader of a list and the CEO intervened, when he was contacted by her, and instructed that once the Leader or Deputy Leader of the list brings in an affidavit, they have to accept.”
She also stated that “the CEO never wrote to the RO, informing them of the procedure and it was the DCEO who is conveying the wrong message to the ROs”.
“The CEO was gone, and I tried calling him and he is not answering and I called the DCEO and she informed me that they are only collecting documents which are defective and that the persons must bring it themselves. I informed her that that was not the decision taken and that she should email all the ROs informing them of the decision. The DCEO said she will consult with the CEO and then she will send the email.”
According to Shaddick, an attorney, the DCEO was also asked to copy the PPP nominated Commissioners in the email. “This is GECOM assisted fraud,” Shaddick argued.
Only Monday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo revealed that there were already several instances of electoral fraud for the 2018 LGE. According to Jagdeo, as many as 42 out of 80 Local Authority Areas have cases of forged signatures or persons being tricked into signing backers’ lists. He has also called for tougher penalties against election fraud.
On Nomination Day, dozens of lists of names and signatures, purporting to be backers of candidates, were palpably defective because of forgeries. These lists contained the names of deceased persons, persons who never existed and persons whose names were placed there without their knowledge and authority or through some fraudulent means. (Samuel Sukhnandan and Andrew Carmichael)