Merging H2H data will ‘contaminate’ NRR; further delay polls – Commissioner Benn

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn
GECOM Chair (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh

The Opposition-nominated Commissioners at GECOM are not too happy about the decision to merge the House-to-House Registration data with the National Register of Registrants (NRR) saying that this will contaminate the NRR and lead to further delaying the General and Regional Elections.

According to Commissioner Robeson Benn, this was not a product of their proposals. “The difficulty we have is merging and verification of the data. It was not our proposal. We have said that any merging or verification of the data is wrong, it will take a long time and it will contaminate the NRR. It will result in duplicates. And having appeared as duplicates, each one of those will have to be investigated”.

Chairperson of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, on Tuesday made a decision to end the ongoing House-to-House Registration exercise.

The decision was taken at a statutory meeting on Tuesday, where she decided that the exercise will be concluded as of August 31, 2019, and that GECOM will afterwards embark on more concrete steps towards the hosting of General and Regional Elections.

Commissioner Robeson Benn

It was also decided that the data gathered so far by the House-to-House exercise will be merged with the existing database.

A statement from GECOM also explained that the Chairperson has decided that the Commission will move to an extensive Claims and Objections, after publishing the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE).

Meanwhile, the PPP in a statement afterwards noted that the statement issued by GECOM afterwards leaves more questions than answers. For instance, the Party noted that if the data is to be merged, then it cannot be the entire 270,000 persons GECOM claimed it registered, since this would include duplicates. The PPP pointed out that instead of seeking to merge the data, which will take months, Claims and Objections could achieve the same result in a shorter time.

“Secondly, the GECOM press statement said: ‘Based on the ruling of the Chief Justice on 14th August 2019 that House-to-House Registration is not unlawful and is constitutional, the data garnered from that registration exercise must be merged with the existing National Register of Registrants Database.’ This is an attempt to distort the ruling of the High Court. Nowhere in the ruling of the Chief Justice did she direct any merger of data garnered from House-to-House Registration with the NRR”.

“We reiterate the position of the PPP, which is that the planned merger of data from the House-to-House Registration will not improve the quality or ‘credibility’ of the database – rather, it will further contaminate the National Register of Registrants and cause further delays in the holding of elections,” the Party added.

In its statement, the Party went on to urge GECOM to move decisively by immediately launching its Claims and Objections exercise. This, the Party noted, would allow anyone not on the NRR and eligible, to be registered.

The Party added that for weeks now, its General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, has said that House-to-House Registration, in addition to being a waste of taxpayers’ resources, was intended to delay the holding of General and Regional Elections, which should have been held since March 21, 2019.

Further, the Party is of the view that the decision made by GECOM on Tuesday is the only logical decision that could have been made.