GECOM bent on moving ahead with controversial decision on ID cards inspite of serious objections

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Chairperson of GECOM Justice Claudette Singh

Despite unequivocal objections from the Opposition, business community and civil society, the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) will press ahead with its new policy of giving persons 21 days to pick up their national identification (ID) cards or be expelled from the voters’ list – in fact, their names will be published from this weekend.

This was explained by both Opposition and Government Commissioners at the conclusion of this week’s statutory meeting. Speaking with INews after Tuesday’s meeting, Opposition-nominated Commissioner Sase Gunraj mentioned that they are exploring a number of options should GECOM go ahead with it.

“Much to the disagreement of myself and colleagues, the Chairman is insisting on publishing the names of those who have not collected their ID cards and what is now made very clear, is that persons who may have registered as late as last year or during the previous Claims and Objections period and did not collect their ID cards, also stand at risk of being removed from the list,” Gunraj said following the meeting.

He added that the situation is “very disconcerting because persons will be disenfranchised by this move… apparently, it is slated for this weekend. As we speak, I am determining what routes can be taken. And there are several options available to us”.

Government Commissioners Desmond Trotman, Vincent Alexander and Charles Corbin

Gunraj and Government-nominated Vincent Alexander related that the Commission met with newly-formed political party A New and United Guyana (ANUG). It was explained that at that meeting, ANUG also expressed reservations about GECOM’s plan. According to Alexander, however, GECOM will be writing to over 20,000 persons to collect their ID cards.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG) on Tuesday said that the decision has very serious implications for Guyana’s democracy.

“While the Chairperson has committed to ensuring that those in question will be contacted through several means, there is really no guarantee that the information will reach them in time or even reach them at all”.

GECOM Commissioners; from left, Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick

The decision to strike out these eligible, registered, voters, thus, denying them the opportunity to cast their vote in the upcoming elections, the Trade Union added, appears, is contrary to the legislation covering the conduct of elections and registration of voters.

The Union referenced the decision of acting Chief Justice Roxane George, who only recently ruled that persons could not be barred from voting unless they failed to meet specific criteria. No mention was made of voters without ID cards being unable to vote.