OPINION: Urgent review of operational setting needed to allay concerns and deliver credible recount – Robeson Benn

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A scene from inside the recount venue this morning

The following is a statement by GECOM Commissioner, Robeson Benn 

As has been feared, based on observations of the layouts and footprints of counting stations at the International Counting Centre, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) appears to be making maximum perverse use of the COVID-19 situation to keep stakeholders and observers remote from satisfactory direct observation and verification of the recount process for ballot boxes of the General and Regional Elections, 2020.

While there is a two (2) trestle head table setup with a camera and screen, with four (4) seating places for staff, the distance to the first row of seats for stakeholders and observers is some fifteen (15) feet. The observed seating matrix is 3 by 4 making for the distance to the last row of seating from the table to be at least forty feet!

The presence of the screen to project the packages, ballots and other materiel does not really help because the fixed camera capture area is relatively small to ascertain the true condition of packages, ballots and the ultimate storage or fate of all items received and processed. One would have to continuously alter views between the screen and the table to keep track of disparate actions by the handlers at the distances on offer to avoid any issue of claims of switching or insertions. And then a resort would have to be made to going up to the table to make certain that what was indeed said or displayed, from afar, is indeed true leading to delays in the activity.

GECOM utilizing the misguided, or worse malicious, guidance from the Ministry of Public Health is bent on enforcing a six (6) foot social distance requirement in a seating arrangement for stakeholders and observers, who will wear even N95 masks while its own staff at the head table will be operating within three (3) feet of each other while wearing masks which is consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for a low-risk environment! How does one justify, in the circumstances the large separation distance between the counting table on one side and the stakeholders and observers on the other side?

An urgent review, of the operational setting and methodology in place, is most certainly required to allay concerns and to deliver a recount process which meets high levels of transparency in all aspects.

This last is, also, required to have a now truculent and surly GECOM restore to the Guyanese electorate a process which they own through the political parties which represent them.