Private Sector blasts GECOM CEO for proceeding with House-to-House Registration

PSC Chairman Captain Gerry Gouveia
GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield

The Private Sector Commission (PSC), one of several accredited elections observers, has written a stinging letter to Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, upbraiding him for starting an unsanctioned, unverified, House-to-House Registration exercise.

According to PSC Chairman Captain (retired) Gerry Gouveia in the letter addressed to the CEO, House-to-House Registration is usually preceded by GECOM consulting with important stakeholders, such as elections’ observers. The PSC noted that its repeated attempts to meet with the CEO have been disregarded as GECOM presses on with preparations for the exercise.

“We write now as a result of GECOM having officially announced the commencement of house-to-house registration as of 20th July, 2019. We have sought legal advice on this matter, and it is our understanding that you have not been legally directed by the Commission to proceed as you are doing, and that to conduct house-to-house registration is unlawful.

“We have also noted that GECOM’s Internal Counsel has advised that GECOM would be in contempt of the ruling of the CCJ to carry out any instruction in this regard from former Chairman James Patterson, whose appointment by the President has been ruled to be flawed.”

PSC Chairman Captain Gerry Gouveia

In his letter, Gouveia reminded Lowenfield that there is a constitutional requirement to hold elections within three months of the validation of the No Confidence Motion. The PSC also pointed out that, in 2008, the last time House-to-House Registration was done, the PSC had participated in consultations involving civil society, political parties, and the international community.

“We cannot have a credible database if these elements are completely absent from the current house-to-house exercise you are embarking on,” the PSC continued.

“GECOM’s present conduct is a complete break from its history of inclusivity and respectful engagement with all the relevant stakeholders. GECOM is failing to meet its duty to communicate, provide facts, and justify its actions to the public.”

While President David Granger has repeatedly said that the voters list is bloated with 200,000 excess voters (a line repeated by party supporters and Ministers), the PSC pointed out that GECOM never conducted a field test on the National Register of Registrants’ Database (NRRD) to verify if this was even true.

The PSC reminded Lowenfield of his own words back in 2015, when he had sought to allay the fears of observers about the voters list having 570,787 registrants.

According to the PSC, Lowenfield had at that time credited this number to GECOM having opened more registration offices and having improved its systems.

“GECOM, at that time, admitted to a lag in removing deceased persons and those who migrated permanently, but you personally assured us, and we know this to be true from our experience, that the procedures for voting, with the presence of Political Parties’ scrutineers etc. made it practically impossible for anyone to double vote or vote as an imposter.

“You confirmed that GECOM staff and parties’ scrutineers are given folios at every polling station with particulars of voters registered at that station, including photographs. Thus while it was ideal to keep the register scrubbed, you were not concerned then that the size of the list would undermine a free and fair election. Indeed, the 2015 election with a voters’ list of 570,787 electors and 412,012 valid votes cast gave us credible National and Regional Elections.”

The PSC also noted that two Local Government Elections were also credibly held after and amid numerous cycles of continuous registration and claims and objections. The PSC therefore questioned the reasoning for GECOM bypassing Claims and Objections — which would maintain the three months’ deadline for early elections — and jump straight to the other extreme of creating a new list through House-to-House Registration.

It was also pointed out that persons who may not be at home, or are unavoidably out of the jurisdiction, would end up being deregistered.

In view of all these circumstances, the PSC has demanded that GECOM suspend the house-to-house exercise until a new and credible GECOM Chairman is appointed to arbitrate on, and decide, the way forward.