Opposition to amend laws concerning diaspora voting

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By Jomo Paul

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and Executive Member of A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) Basil Williams has signalled the Opposition’s intention to amend some critical elements of Guyana’s electoral laws should they be voted into government post-May 11.

Williams in a recent interview made it clear that certain provisions in the electoral act which prevent Guyanese in the diaspora from voting is something that would be looked at and how those persons express their constitutional right to vote.

According to the APNU Executive member, one of the reasons the list of electors released by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is “bloated” is because of the fact that many Guyanese living overseas are on the list.

Subject to the provisions of Article 159 of Guyana’s Constitution, every person may vote at election if he/she is of the age of eighteen years or upwards and is either a citizen of Guyana or a Commonwealth citizen domiciled and resident in Guyana.

“They haven’t said that you should be resident in Guyana; so we need to deal with that because we abolished overseas elections. So we need to put residency in the constitution as a qualification. So if you not resident in Guyana in the material time then you can’t vote; your name can’t be on the list. That’s why the list is so bloated,” said Williams.

Figures released by the US Embassy in Georgetown have revealed that since 2004, it has issued 46,540 immigration visas to Guyanese. According to figures seen by this newspaper, the Embassy has been issuing an average of 4500 immigrant visas per year since 2004, with 4572 issued last year – in excess of 500 more than the previous year’s.

Basil Williams.

These figures do not account for the amount of Guyanese that have left home in search of better opportunities in other foreign lands such as Canada and parts of the Caribbean which also have a high influx rate of Guyanese Nationals.

With respect to persons that are working out of Guyana, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supplies to GECOM a list of the Missions and detailed particulars on members attached to Overseas Missions.

These details would be examined by GECOM against the Central Register in order to identify qualified electors for the respective Missions. This allows for the production of the Non-Resident Electors’ Roll.