In what was described as a ‘marathon’ meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Commissioners would have left the discussions with inconclusive decisions on a number of discoursed topics – including that of the House-to-House Registration data.
After exiting the five-hour-long deliberations at the Kingston, Georgetown headquarters, Opposition-nominated Commissioner Sase Gunraj expressed that they could not reach a consensus on the usage of the House-to-House data – a process which was halted since August 31. This is even though Chairperson Retired Justice Claudette Singh had prophesied a pronouncement by this week.
Gunraj asserted, “It was a marathon meeting. We had a lot to discuss. We’re actually talking about the interrogation of the House-to-House data at this point. Our discussions currently, as long-winded as they were, are still incomplete. There is nothing definitive that we give at this point”.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would have also met with the Chairperson on Tuesday, where issues regarding this data were discussed. Apart from this, the Commissioner told media operatives that many of the matters discussed ended with an inconclusive outcome.
“The issues that we were informed that the Opposition Leader spoke to the Chairman about was that same House-to-House data but our decisions today were inconclusive on that…Most, if not all of our discussions, were inconclusive”.
During last week’s meeting, Gunraj had explained that they were getting proposals regarding the committal of the House-to-House Registration data. This, he said, was being examined but further noted that the Secretariat has proposed committing the data to the National Register of Registrants (NRR).
He had reiterated his opposition to doing this, noting that while the Secretariat had pointed to the information being posted for public scrutiny, no clear order was ever made in reality by GECOM to inform the public about what they were supposed to do with the information. He also noted that to his knowledge, no objections were made to the data.
When H2H started this year, it was without the input of the Opposition. In fact, the only party that scrutinised the enumerators during the exercise was the ruling party, as the PPP was not even invited to participate.
This, together with the surreptitious nature in which the exercise started under the backdated order of the former Chairman James Patterson and the fact that many people boycotted the exercise, has fuelled suspicion about GECOM’s insistence on using the data.
A decision was taken recently by GECOM to post the House-to-House data at its registration office for persons to inspect and then use as a reference to make changes to the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE). At the time, the Opposition was opposed to this decision since the H2H data would be inaccurate.
The PPP subsequently complained in a statement to the media a few weeks ago that after checks on the H2H list posted by GECOM, it was found that the list is littered with mistakes and duplicate names.
“There are thousands of names duplicated on the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) and thousands of persons who are under the voting age of 18. Our investigations would have found too, that dozens of persons listed as New Registrants cannot be found at the addresses listed and this is a serious cause for concern – fuelling the worry that there are many non-existent persons on the list published by GECOM”.
When the decision was made to halt the House-to-House Registration, the Opposition Leader had responded to plans to merge the data with the existing database, insisting that it would push the hosting of early elections to a later date. He argued that there is a much faster and simpler way of ensuring that everyone, including new registrants, gets on the voters’ list, that is, through Claims and Objections (C&O).
Meanwhile, when asked on Wednesday about the same House-to-House data garnered, Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander also established, “That matter is still to be finalised”.
He also announced that the Commission has given some leverage on the appointment of temporary staff and the production of fresh Identification (ID) cards.
“We discussed the question of the deadline for submissions of symbols, the potential Nomination Day but those are matters which the Secretariat will officially make public announcements on. There was some discretion on the question of the staff, which has been a burning issue.
“We’ve given some leverage to the Secretariat to proceed on the matter of staff. There was the question of discussion on ID cards and again in that regard, there was some leverage in the framework of time and with the resources available to make a determination. These are temporary appointments for people to do tasks associated with the post,” Alexander disclosed.