…as sources question independence of GECOM’s machinery
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) nominated commissioners on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are contending that far from the view being expressed by GECOM and Government officials, elections can be held by March 19, 2019.
In an interview with <<<Inew>>>, PPP’s GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj noted that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield has been creating an impression that there is not enough time to complete various tasks before elections. But according to Gunraj, many of these tasks can be completed concurrently.
“Lowenfield has said that we need 90 days for specific tasks. When you look at the tasks that make up those 90 days, most of the tasks can be done concurrently,” Gunraj said. “For example advertising for staff can occur at the same time that you are procuring training material.”
“He has, for example, 14 days for procurement of training materials, 14 days for advertising for staff. And that counts for 28 days out of the 90 days, when in truth both of those things can happen in those 14 days.”
Commissioner Bibi Shadick had also asserted that GECOM could hold elections within 50 days. According to Shadick, she is basing this on the information provided by Lowenfield at Thursday’s meeting at the Secretariat. The Commissioner related that she even offered Lowenfield a proposed timeline for conducting elections within that time frame.
“I am convinced that the CEO in trying to please all his masters is prepared to go back on the submissions he gave us and is a thoroughly confused person and at this point, I said that he is not fit for the job.
“We moved the date to meet with the Whips so that they can get together and call their principals so that the President can call a date for elections and GECOM will have to hold that elections because once an election date is announced, then GECOM has to meet that date because that is the constitutional mandate of GECOM.”
So, if elections can be held within the prescribed 90 days’ timeline, what is the hold-up? According to sources, the no-confidence resolution passed in Parliament would have tested GECOM’s resolve and independence in much the same way as the Judiciary was tested by the legal application by the Government to delay the resolution’s application.
But sources noted that while the Judiciary recognised the urgent nature of the no-confidence vote and expedited the cases, GECOM’s foot-dragging has earned it much criticism.
On Friday, Chief Whips Gail Teixeira and Anna Ally emerged from their meeting with GECOM with more questions than answers, as GECOM refused to give deadlines for its preparations.
Opposition Chief Whip had been less than satisfied with the answers she did get. According to Teixeira, she asked if the Commission could make simultaneous preparations to accommodate what remains of the time frame for elections.
“We asked a number of technical questions, to do with the Commission doing a range of things to make the 50 days, because we have about 54 days left. And wasn’t it possible for the Commission to run on simultaneous tracks (for) procurement, ballot paper, training, the list in terms of extracting and adding those eligible (names).
“The Commission did not answer, except that Lowenfield had concerns about training. The Commission trained approximately 10,000 people for LGE [Local Government Elections], used 7500. So we don’t believe it’s impossible that we could achieve the number of people to work as temporary polling staff.”
Teixeira was of the view that Lowenfield was reluctant to give approximate dates for election preparations. In fact, Teixeira noted that the CEO constantly deferred to the Commission when it came to giving timelines and she expressed suspicions that he may be under pressure.
According to the Chief Whip, the Government Commissioners mostly provided reasons for not holding the elections in 90 days, such as house-to-house registration. She noted that this exercise could delay the elections by as much as eight months.
GECOM, which successfully ran the LGE in November 2018, less than three months ago, is being blamed by Government for not being ready, but it is the President of Guyana, who has to give a date for elections and not GECOM as being touted.
The President of Guyana, according to the Constitution, has to dissolve Parliament and issue a date for elections. Calls by this publication to Lowenfield went unanswered.