GECOM Chair debunks Opposition Commissioners’ claim she refused to meet PNCR

Justice Claudette Singh

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, retired Justice Claudette Singh, has debunked Opposition Commissioners’ claims that she refused to meet with Peoples National Congress Reform General Secretary Amna Ally.

She was at the time responding to a statement issued by Opposition Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, who claimed that they walked out of the GECOM meeting after Singh refused to meet with Ally and a delegation from the APNU+AFC “on the ground that such a meeting is unprecedented”.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Justice Singh said Ally wrote to her on January 7, 2021 requesting to “engage you singularly as the Chairperson of the Commission to proffer our proposals of the matters at hand before participating in the Commission’s meeting.”

According to Justice Singh, in her response to Ally, dated January 7, 2021, she extended an invitation for the team to meet with the Commission at 14:00h on January 12, 2021.

“In a separate communication on the same day, I also requested that any issues likely to be raised are matters to be addressed by the Commission, and recommended that proposals should be forwarded in writing so that they may be dispatched to the Commissioners for their perusal and consideration prior to the meeting,” Justice Singh said in her statement.

On January 11, 2021, Justice Singh said, in response, Ally reiterated her request to meet singularly to discuss “matters in relation to registration”, noting that “it is public knowledge that you have facilitated meetings with other stakeholders both foreign and domestic without major formalities…”. She expressly opined that a meeting with the full Commission can be held subsequent to a meeting with the PNCR.

“I further advised Ms Ally on the 12th January, 2021, prior to the meeting of the Commission, of my insistence that the team meet with the “full Commission, as is customary when meeting with Political Parties”. I explained that “this methodology has been quite useful in ensuring all Commissioners collectively benefit from the issues to be addressed for later deliberation and decision,” the statement on Tuesday evening read.

The claim made by Commissioners Alexander, Corbin and Trotman, Justice Singh added, is grossly misleading at the very least.

“As Chairperson of GECOM, I have never engaged with any political party on my own. Proposals made by stakeholders are always welcomed, and being heard by the full Commission allows for a more meaningful engagement at that level. In any event, as Chairperson, I reiterate that it is appropriate to engage political parties at the level of the Commission, so that their concerns may be discussed, and where necessary, action taken. It is for these very reasons that I extended an invitation to Ms. Ally to meet with the entire Commission, as I would to any other political party expressing a desire to meet with me singularly,” Justice Singh said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the three Opposition Commissioners claimed that they walked out of the meeting since Singh had refused to meet with Ally. In a statement, the trio said, “The APNU-AFC is a major stakeholder, and as such we consider it discourteous, at least, for her not to have entertained their presence. The current environment in the Commission is not conductive for a briefing of the sort sought. Presently, GECOM is on the verge of major decision making with regards to voter registration, a matter that was litigated and requires serious and in-dept consideration before a decision is made. In that regard, at least, a briefing of any major stakeholder should be useful, if not essential.”