By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), has refused to let what it claims to be misinformation surrounding its Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) go unchallenged.
At an almost two hour long press briefing this afternoon (Thursday, September 04), GECOM’s Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally; Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield and other officials explained, point by point, the “correctness” of the Commission’s processes which have influenced the PLE.
Dr. Surujbally said it is unfortunate that GECOM, in recent weeks, has been subjected, relentlessly so, to an “unacceptable” and “undeserved castigation”; adding that his ‘A’ team has over the years prepared for and mastered local elections while contributing to the electoral process in other advancing democracies.
“I think we have an obligation to tell this nation the truth and bear naked the falsehoods and the unprovoked innuendos which seem intended to blemish GECOM’s credibility that it painstakingly cultivated and nurtured over the years,” the Chairman said while also pointing to the global recognition the Body has received.
Over the last few weeks, the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) issued both written and oral statements, pointing to “deficiencies” in the list. GECOM says it has not received any objections to the list from any other political party.
Among the concerns raised by the PPP were that some 2,958 dead persons were on the list, persons being registered outside of divisions in which they reside and others not being found along with an astronomical increase in new registrants.
GECOM clarified that persons were in fact found to be residing outside of divisions in which they were registered. In this regard, the Election Body explained that the problem arises from persons changing their address [which GECOM cannot prevent them from doing] and not making an application for a transfer [which is not mandatory].
Dr. Surujbally was forceful in pointing out what he described as “deceptions” by the Party when it claimed that persons registered on the list could not be found. He explained too that there are instances where persons are registered but reside overseas.
“We take umbrage to the use of the word padding,” the Chairman said; explaining that “this means GECOM is consciously and purposelyincreasing the list and we collectively debunk such unfair statements.”
He cautioned that no list can be 100% perfect but said the Commission is working to correct whatever discrepancies there are, whether externally or internally.
The Chairman warned that removing an elector from the list because he/she cannot be found or no longer resides at an address could result in that person being disenfranchised.
He said that GECOM follows a strict policy which mandates them to remove a person’s name only if the General Register Office (GRO) provides that person’s name to them as being dead.
He pointed to the case of the dead President still on the list, as he noted that GECOM officials cannot remove that person’s name unless the GRO says the person is dead or an objection is made to the name on the list.
The Chairman clarified that nineteen persons that were objected to by the PPP as being dead were found to be alive.
Even as he provided information, indicating that from January 2008 to April 2014 some 12,444 dead persons were removed, he said there is no problem if dead persons remain on the list because “they can’t vote or no one can vote for them.”
Meanwhile, CEO Lowenfield, with reference to the PLE having an astronomical increase in new registrants amounting to almost 80,000 compared to previous annual increases of approximately 11,000, displayed a table delineating the number of registrants from the various registration exercises who were not included in the 2011 OLE but are now in the 2014 PLE.
He said too that the concern raised by the PPP that 18 persons were found to be living at one address is not unusual and something that the Commission has no control over.
Meanwhile, the GECOM Chairman says he does not support the call for a fresh round of Continuous Registrations and Claims and Objections which he considers to be a lack of faith by the Party, calling for such, in its own Scrutinizers.