GECOM should not be seeking ‘permission’ from politically-controlled COVID-19 Task Force – Gunraj

Commissioner Sase Gunraj speaking to the media on Wednesday
Commissioner Sase Gunraj speaking to the media on Wednesday

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has once again found itself in a situation where it has to await the ‘permission’ of the COVID-19 Task Force to move ahead with another important aspect of its work in relation to the national recount of the March 2, polls.

GECOM was forced to postpone a meeting scheduled for today (Wednesday) to make final decisions on the establishment of additional work stations in order to accelerate the ongoing national recount process.

The Commission’s meeting was postponed after the National COVID-19 Task Force was unable to visit the recount venue – Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) today, to make an assessment of the available spaces and advise on the appropriate number of additional work stations that can be established.

However, Commissioner Sase Gunraj, during a media briefing today, lamented the fact that the Commission should not be in such a situation where it is required to seek approval from the politically-controlled Task Force. Rather, he said the Commission should be making these decisions based on public health advice and merely “inform” the COVID-19 Task Force of its decisions.

“We ought not to be fettered by a Task Force that is comprised of persons who are seeking office from this electoral process,” Gunraj argued.

The COVID-19 Task Force is being chaired by former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; its Chief Executive Officer is former Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

The PPP-nominated Commissioner explained that both sides of the Commission looked around and identified several other locations within the recount facility which could house additional work stations.

He noted that the Task Force was invited to survey the facility and discuss the proposals the Commission made in relation to the additional work stations; but this did not happen.

Gunraj related the Task Force indicated that they were unable to visit the recount venue today as they were “otherwise engaged”.

He noted that this setback has resulted in aspects of the Commission’s work in relation to the recount exercise being delayed.

Currently, there are ten counting stations and GECOM had proposed a 25-day timeline to complete the exercise.

However, taking into consideration the slow pace at which the recount is being done, several stakeholders had called on GECOM to increase the number of work stations and hours of work to accelerate the process.