GECOM Chair must explain ‘illegal’ decision on uncollected ID cards – Jagdeo

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Chairperson of GECOM Justice Claudette Singh

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, has called on the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (rtd) Claudette Singh to explain to the nation, the reason/s for siding with Government-nominated Commissioners in a vote to have some 28,000 Guyanese voters, who have not uplifted their ID cards, be removed from the Voters’ List.

At Tuesday’s (October 29, 2019) statutory meeting, the GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, voted with the three Government-nominated Commissioners on this matter. As such, the thousands of persons who did not uplift their identification cards will have 21 days to do so or be removed from the Official List of Electors (OLE). However, these persons will remain on the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB).

The rationale being used for such a decision is that these persons were registered as voters in 2008 but have not uplifted their national identification (ID) cards.

However, during a news conference on Wednesday, Jagdeo referred to the decision as the latest manifestation of the desperation within the APNU/AFC coalition camp by the Government-nominated Commissioners to either disenfranchise eligible Guyanese voters or prepare the ground to invalidate the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.

“Because of the law, as well as her own ruling, her decision now cannot be explained. She needs to answer why she sided in a process that will disenfranchise thousands of Guyanese and would be illegal….I don’t understand how this decision will ever stand…this is not going to stand…we must not allow it to succeed,” he said.

“This is patently illegal,” Jagdeo declared.

Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP/C Bharrat Jagdeo

Jagdeo stressed that the national identification cards are not voter identification cards. “These are national ID cards. They are not voter ID cards…you don’t need them to vote…in the past, these cards were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Then it was decided that GECOM should perform that function for the State, since it was now responsible for registration…to link the two – collect an ID card to the right to vote – is an affront to all Guyanese,” he said.

Referring to the Constitution of Guyana, he stressed that Article 59 is clear on the rights of Guyanese voters.

Article 59 states: “Subject to the provisions of article 159, every person may vote at an election if he is of the age of eighteen years or upwards and is either a citizen of Guyana or a Commonwealth citizen domiciled and resident in Guyana”.

Jagdeo said, “The only requirement to vote is Guyanese 18 and above…nowhere does it mention ID card…they cannot remove people from the Official List of Electors capriciously…it would be an illegal act for them to remove names from the list just because they did not pick up ID cards”.

The Opposition Leader also pointed out that the issue of uncollected national identification cards was addressed by the former GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally.

In June 2011, Surujbally stated there were some 43,187 identification cards still to be collected. However, he had stressed that these are not voting cards and pointed out that the constitutional requirement to vote is to be registered, not necessarily to be in possession of an identification card.

Further, he cited paragraph 129 of the recent ruling by the acting Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire, in the case challenging the constitutionality of the now scrapped House-to-House Registration. George-Wiltshire ruled that: “The right to be registered to vote and the right to vote are sacrosanct and fundamental. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Guyana has acceded and which is incorporated into our Constitution, (see art 154A (1) and the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution) establishes the right to vote as a matter of international human rights law and provides that every citizen has a right to vote”.