GECOM claims it is “multitasking” to prepare for elections

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…says H2H data being verified, polling day staff being trained

Under a constant barrage of criticisms for the continued delay in holding elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) claims that it is multitasking, by training polling day staff and inputting data while the Commission deliberates on timeframes.

According to GECOM in a statement on Monday, they are currently verifying and encoding the House-to-House data that was gathered and scheduled to be merged with the existing National Register of Registrants (NRR) database.

“In addition, the Commission is moving swiftly with the training of polling day staff countrywide. To date, training has been completed in Region 4 (Georgetown, East Bank and East Coast) and Region 5. Training will be conducted in Regions 1, 2 and 10 on September 7-8, 2019,” GECOM said.

“The Guyana Elections Commission is committed to ensuring it produces a credible list for the conduct of credible General and Regional Elections within the shortest possible time in accordance with law,” the Commission added.

Meanwhile, sources have confirmed to this publication that as of Friday, GECOM had scanned and inputted less than a third (approximately 120,000) of the over 370,000 persons who were registered during House-to-House into the system.

It is understood that the data generated from this process will then have to be analysed before attempts to add them to the NRR are even made.

After a more than four-hour-long meeting on Friday last, both Opposition and Government-aligned Commissioners disclosed to media operatives that March 2020 was one of several timelines proposed by the Secretariat.

Government-aligned Commissioner Vincent Alexander confirmed that March 2020 is one of the dates discussed during the meeting. According to the Commissioners, one of the activities proposed to be undertaken by GECOM during that period is the printing of new national identification (ID) cards. However, Commissioner Bibi Shadick contended that such an initiative is unnecessary.

She pointed out that ID cards are not needed to vote, as any other form of identification, such as a passport, is accepted. In lieu of any such documents, she said voters can sign an oath at the polling stations.

After this revelation, a number of figures in several sections of the media have come out critiquing not only GECOM, but its Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh. In its statement, GECOM pointed out that these discussions are slated to continue at the next statutory meeting on September 10.

A No-Confidence Motion (NCM) was passed against the government since December 21 of last year. However, elections were not held and there was no resignation. Instead, the Government went through several levels of court, unsuccessfully arguing that the NCM was not validly passed.

At the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the final court had thrown out the Government’s case and had handed down judgement saying that when the NCM was passed on December 21, 2019, Article 106 of the Constitution had immediately been activated. In addition, the Court had noted that the provisions of the article were clear.

Instead of immediately starting serious preparations to hold elections in the shortest possible time, GECOM proceeded to carry out House-to-House Registration based on the orders of unilaterally appointed former Chairman retired Justice James Patterson. A court case challenging this process and seeking to have GECOM comply with the Constitution was in fact filed.

While that process was ultimately stopped by his successor, the decision to merge the new data from House-to-House and to prioritise the printing of identification cards, instead of seeking to have elections held as soon as possible, has been criticised by People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated GECOM Commissioners as part of the Government’s delaying tactics.