GECOM completes encoding of H2H data, but several outstanding issues yet to be settled

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Government Commissioners Desmond Trotman, Vincent Alexander and Charles Corbin

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Secretariat has finally completed the encoding process for the House-to-House Registration data that was accumulated during the recent exercise with the fingerprints captured now expected to be sent overseas for cross-matching.

This was explained at the conclusion of Tuesday’s statutory meeting by GECOM Commissioner, Sase Gunraj. According to Gunraj, he was presented with a fingerprint cross-matching report catering for approximately 180,000 registrants.

This data was received from overseas, having been sent prior to the entire encoding being completed in order to help fast track the process. Gunraj noted that he will have to peruse the report before he makes more pronouncements on its contents.

In his engagement with the media, Government-nominated Commissioner Charles Corbin had explained that the data gleaned from the encoding process will be put up for public scrutiny from tomorrow. Gunraj noted, however, that there is much uncertainty about this approach.

“We discussed the House-to-House data. Specifically, we got back a report from the fingerprint cross-matching on a part of that data. What we are looking at now is what to do with it. A proposal is to publicise it for public scrutiny, but then to what end?” Gunraj explained to the media.

“My questions at the meeting were, when you post it for public scrutiny, how does one deal with it? Is one allowed to make an objection? Is one allowed to make a claim? Is one allowed to ask questions about entries on that list? Those are questions that have to be answered by the Secretariat. Up to the present time we have not received any proposal as to how those issues will be treated.”

Gunraj also explained that the data that wasn’t captured in the previous batch of data that was sent overseas will now be sent overseas to be cross-matched. He could not say when this final batch would be returned.

Other issues, such as the removal of the names of persons who have not uplifted identification cards, were not ventilated on Tuesday. According to Gunraj, his absence at last week’s meeting and the absence of Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander precluded any decisions being taken on the issue.

Only last week, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had expressed concerns about the likelihood of rigged elections in light of a proposal by a Government-nominated Commissioner at GECOM to strike off some 20,000 names from the voters’ list for failure to uplift their identification (ID) cards.

Jagdeo condemned the proposal, which was made by Alexander, stating that such a move would be unconstitutional and would result in thousands of persons being disenfranchised.

He told the media that the proposal was “downright illegal”.

He reminded that the very Chairperson of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh in 1997 had invalidated the results of that year’s elections in her ruling that an ID card was not required for a Guyanese to cast a vote at an election here.

“She [Justice Singh] ruled against it and invalidated the results of the elections … So now, it is even worse: although you don’t need an ID card to vote, you can show up in the polling place, you can use your passport, your ID card or you can swear to an oath and vote. They want to take off and not just to cancel the ID cards which they have a right to do if they want to, but they want to take those names off the voters’ list.”

Jagdeo also reminded that acting Chief Justice Roxane George recently had ruled that the names of persons on the voters’ list could not be removed for any reason outside of those outlined in Guyana’s Constitution – that is death or insanity.