GECOM Commissioners say entity not being accountable

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GECOM Chair James Patterson

With just 43 days to go before Local Government Elections (LGE) are held, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have accused the entity of being unaccountable.

In an interview with this publication, the Commissioners made it clear that there are times when requests for information get them nowhere.

One problem identified by Commissioner Sase Gunraj is the manner in which meetings are held.

“You’ve heard in the media us complaining and saying things recently about the quality of the meetings, the discussions, the timing of the meetings; and those statements are not very complimentary of GECOM,” he said.

“Because the meetings are truncated in terms of time, the discussions, sometimes even though they may be long-winded, do not end in implementable decisions,” Gunraj said. “And generally, at the commission level, it’s as though you have to squeeze blood out of stone to get what is happening.”

According to Gunraj, those commissioners perceive the operations at the commission level are running on a need-to-know basis.

Elaborating on the way meetings are held, PPP Commissioner Bibi Shadick compared what obtains now to the days of former Chairman Dr Surujbally, who demitted office in 2017.

“Statutory meetings are held on Tuesdays and are supposed to start at one o’clock. From the first day, the Chairman announces that he’s not going beyond certain hours. First it was five o’clock. Then it came up to four o’clock. Then, if something is being discussed and the Chairman doesn’t (want to stay), he gets up,” she explained.

“This has happened on more than one occasion. The thing about it is the commission under Surujbally was long hours, but at least we didn’t have a chairman that used to get up and walk out. This now is happening,” she declared.

Retired Justice James Patterson was unilaterally appointed GECOM Chairman late last year.

Already, much controversy has surrounded the elections, including political parties accusing each other of submitting fraudulent lists on Nomination Day.

Gunraj also addressed concerns about the publication of the candidates and backers’ lists. While Government officials have suggested that this should not have been done at all, Gunraj has insisted that the law makes it necessary.

“All that is done for elections are a statutory process. Included in that process is that, upon receipt of the lists by the Returning Officer on Nomination Day within the specified period, they are required by law to post that list in a conspicuous place outside the RO office. That was done,” he said.

“In fact, myself and other commissioners looked at this exercise at various RO offices throughout the Coast. I was on the East Coast; I know Commissioner Shadick was on the East Bank. I was also at Critchlow Labour College, where it was attended by a large media contingent (and) in person by the Minister of Communities and the Chairman of GECOM.”

Gunraj noted that all those officials had observed the process, and he denied claims that the lists were published because of the PPP Commissioners.

At a recent Alliance for Change (AFC) press conference, it was reported that that party’s Campaign Manager, David Patterson, had compared publicising of the lists to opening a can of worms. But according to Gunraj, the transparency it afforded highlighted electoral fraud.

“It is an outcome of the viewing of these lists that all these issues have now arisen. People started to complain that they never signed lists. People started to complain that they did sign lists, but were duped into so doing,” he said.

“They were told they were signing for better roads or old age pension. Another one I heard was they was listing persons to join a Community Policing Group. All of those are instances of fraud,” Gunraj said, adding that no right thinking person should countenance such things.

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