Private citizen files court action to stop house-to-house registration

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A private citizen has filed an application in the High Court to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from going forward with the house-to-house registration exercise.

The application, filed by Bibi Zeenatoun of 317 East Street, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, is asking the court to declare that the house-to-house registration exercise is “unconstitutional, ultra vires, illegal, null, void and of no effect.”

The application was filed two weeks after a letter was sent to the Chief Elections Officer by Attorney Anil Nandlall, on behalf of GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn, demanding that the elections body stop the house-to-house registration exercise.

Benn had argued that GECOM’s proposal to remove persons from the voters list who are not residing in Guyana will “disenfranchise thousands of persons now qualified to vote.”

According to the application, Zeenatoun argues that she is a pensioner, a citizen and registered elector in Guyana, but resides in the United Kingdom.

She claimed that she voted in elections in Guyana as recent as the 2018 Local Government Elections.

The court document explained that the applicant worked as a Teacher in the United Kingdom from 1980 until her retirement in 2014.

She acquired property and maintained a residence in the United Kingdom where she also receives health benefits.

The applicant has an adult son who resides in Guyana along with his two children, and for seven months during the year, she returns to Guyana to help care for her grandchildren and guides them in their academic studies.

However, it was noted that 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.

As such, she will be “de-registered and in consequence, thereof, and she will be unlawfully denied her statutory and unconstitutional right to be registered and to vote.”

Article 59 of the Constitution states: “Subject to the provisions of article 159, every person may vote at an election if he or she is of age eighteen years or upwards and is either a citizen of Guyana or a Commonwealth citizen domiciled and resident in Guyana.”

Further, the applicant is asking for a writ of prohibition directing the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and agents of GECOM from embarking upon the exercise scheduled to commence in June 2019, or any date thereafter.

The applicant is also asking the court to declare that the proposed exercise to begin in June “will exclude the Applicant who is currently on the National Register of Registrants and on the Official List of Electors, and will contravene her constitutional right to vote.”

Zeenatoun is asking for an injunction restraining GECOM from embarking upon the exercise; she is represented by former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.

One GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander on Tuesday last told the media that the commission is moving ahead with House to House registration. Alexander deemed the court challenge a joke.

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