Overseas-based Guyanese takes GECOM to court to block house-to-house registration

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Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and Roxanne Myers, Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO).

After warning the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to desist from house-to-house registration or face the law, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has filed legal proceedings against the Commission.

In the legal documents seen by INews and filed by Nandlall on behalf of his client, Bibi Zeenatoun, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and GECOM are named as respondents.

In the fixed date application, the former AG sets out that the house-to-house registration is unconstitutional. It is noted that they are seeking a declaration of this and the fact that the exercise will exclude qualified registrants currently on the National Register and the official list of electors.

Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

In particular, the application is seeking a declaration that Zeenatoun herself will be excluded and thus, have her constitutional right to vote breached. According to the application, Zeenatoun is a retired teacher and citizen of Guyana who is registered to vote.

The application explains that she worked in the United Kingdom from 1980 until her retirement in 2014. She then acquired property and maintained a residence in that country. Besides her citizenship, however, she has family ties to Guyana that include an adult son and his two children.

“For seven months during the year, she returns to Guyana to help care for her  grandchildren and guide them in their academic studies. The Applicant has voted in elections in Guyana as recent as the 2018 Local Government Elections.”

“The Applicant, during her current stay in Guyana, became aware of conflicting statements by the Respondents, through public statements transmitted in the local news, regarding the existing National Register of Registrants and plans by the Respondent to conduct house-to-house registration.”

As an example, the claimants cited Lowenfield’s comments carried in the February 5 edition of sections of the media that “the voters’ list is clean and valid, with a life until the 30th of April”.

They went on to cite comments from GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander about the need to cleanse the list anyway, then Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s comments that persons who are overseas when the enumerators pay their houses a visit cannot be a part of the voters’ list.

“The Applicant will be absent from Guyana for a period of five months commencing from the end of May 2019 and will, therefore, not be at her local place of residence [in person] during the period being proposed by GECOM to conduct the said house-to-house registration.”

GECOM Chair James Patterson

According to the application, Zeenatoun “fears that she will be excluded from the proposed exercise of house-to-house registration and thereby, in effect, be de-registered and in consequence thereof, and she will be unlawfully denied her statutory and constitutional right to be registered and to vote”.

“The Applicant’s right to vote will and can be protected if the Respondents were to engage in Continuous Registration as provided for in Section 6 (1) of the National Registration Act Cap. 19:08,” the application advises.

Besides the aforementioned declarations, Nandlall is seeking from the High Court a Writ of Prohibition, injunction and conservatory order against GECOM, restraining the respondents, either themselves or their agents, from carrying out house-to-house registration. He is also seeking costs and any other orders the court awards.

Nandlall had explained that when GECOM staff go house to house and cannot find persons on the list living in Guyana, such persons will be de-registered. The former AG noted that Articles 59 and 159 provides for everyone to vote at elections once they are qualified and registered.

 

 

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