Potential local elections observers given cold shoulder by GECOM

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Both the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) have written to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) seeking observer status for the upcoming elections on March 2, 2020, but to date, their applications are still in limbo.

PSC Chairman Capt. Gerry Gouveia

In the case of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Chairman and retired Captain Gerry Gouveia noted that a letter requesting observer status was sent to GECOM Chair Retired Justice Claudette Singh soon after her appointment.

“They said it hasn’t been discussed as yet but they’re in the process of doing that. And they’ll let us know as soon as they’re finished… that (follow-up) was about two weeks ago. We first wrote her a few weeks after she was appointed,” Gouveia explained. Justice Singh was sworn in as GECOM Chair since July 2019.

When contacted, GCCI President Nicholas Boyer also related to this publication that they are yet to get confirmation of their observer status from GECOM.

“We (were told) that our application has been received. And they’ve acknowledged receiving it. But they haven’t given us any sort of response saying it was approved or will be approved by any date,” Boyer explained.

GCCI President Nicholas Boyer

“We’ve written a while now… sometime between three and four weeks ago… and then we sent a follow-up this past week. We requested two things. We requested to meet with GECOM and we requested observer status. It’s a bit concerning because we haven’t had any sort of meeting or any engagement”.

This publication was told that several other organisations both locally and internationally have also applied but are yet to receive any response from GECOM.

The PSC has, in the past, been vocal about GECOM keeping in line with the law, as it sought to prepare its machinery for elections. When it seemed that GECOM was dragging its feet and beginning an unsanctioned House-to-House Registration exercise, Gouveia had written directly to Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, urging him to halt the exercise and speed up elections preparations.

In a subsequent ruling, Chief Justice Roxane George had ruled that while House-to-House was not illegal, GECOM should consider other forms of verification. GECOM subsequently scrapped the exercise but not before Government-nominated GECOM Commissioner Desmond Trotman wrote a letter in the press attacking Gouveia for his advocacy.

PSC and GCCI’s revelations come following Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo contending at previous press conferences that GECOM had declined help from organisations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It was only recently that it was announced that GECOM would be benefiting from the technical expertise of retired Chief Electoral Officer of Canada’s elections body, Jean-Pierre Kingsley.

His appointment is being funded by the Canadian Government. According to GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward, the Canadian High Commission here had offered the elections body technical assistance in the form of providing an expert and the seven-member Elections Commission had accepted the offer, which resulted in the former Canadian Electoral Officer being appointed.