With the current voters’ list having been certified in October of 2018, a People’s Progressive Party nominated Commissioner at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is debunking claims that persons will be disenfranchised if elections are held in March or April.
This pronouncement was made by GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj during a recent press conference. Gunraj explained that the voters’ list was refreshed by the Claims and Objections period.
“The laws of this country provide for how and when a list must be refreshed. A list must be refreshed by a Claims and Objections period. After a list is refreshed in this manner, that list used to be valid for three months. Pursuant to a legislative change made by the National Assembly in 2018, the period of validity of list extended from three months to six months.”
“As a consequence, that list would have been valid for a period of six months, which expires at the end of April 2019. There is no need, up to April 30, 2019, once elections are going to be held prior to that date, for any amendments whatsoever to be made to a list. That list is valid according to law.”
According to Gunraj, the last date the voters’ list was certified was October 31, 2018. He noted that in the case where there is a valid list being used within the constitutional timeframe, it is disingenuous to say persons will be disenfranchised.
Gunraj also made it clear that persons desirous of voting should make an effort to ensure they are on the voters’ list, in keeping with their constitutional rights.
“Some persons have even gone so far as to say that their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote is being affected by not having registration. The Constitution guarantees you a right to vote if you are 18 years old, subject to conditions.”
“One, you must be at the age of 18 at the qualifying date. Two, you must be registered to vote at the qualifying date. It is not the responsibility of GECOM to go and drag you to register. You have an obligation to yourself and a civic duty, one grounded in law, to present yourself for registration.”
A recent protest held in GECOM’s vicinity, had featured persons supporting the call for new house-to-house registration. The Opposition party and its supporters have labelled this call ‘a ruse’ for delaying elections and have been calling for elections by March 19.
At a press conference on Friday, GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield had told the media that the secretariat is yet to receive instructions from the Commission to commence its elections preparations. In addition, it was claimed that the secretariat needs another 148 days before it is fully ready to host the constitutionally mandated General and Regional Elections.
Gunraj and his fellow Commissioner Robeson Benn had both dismissed this timeline and made it clear that Lowenfield’s job was to get the election machinery rolling in keeping with the constitutional timeline.
The parliamentary Opposition and other observers have accused Government of attempting to delay the holding of the constitutionally mandated elections following the passage of the No-confidence Motion of December 21, 2018.
The three-month time frame in which the polls should be held was validated in a judicial interpretation by acting Chief Justice Roxane George, who declared that the December 21, 2018 No-confidence Motion was validly passed 33-32.
The complaint has been that GECOM was unforthcoming about its preparedness for the mandatory elections despite being mandated by the Constitution of Guyana to hold elections within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion. The Constitution provides for the President to announce a date for elections and not GECOM as is being touted. Since the passage of the No-confidence Motion, the Opposition has called out both Government and GECOM on what it described as delaying tactics.