Commissioner accuses GECOM Legal Officer of ‘deceit’ over opinion on voters list

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Government nominated Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Desmond Trotman is accusing GECOM’s Legal Officer of “deceit” after she offered a legal opinion determining that the Commission does not need to produce a new list of electors for general and regional elections.

The opinion was offered in response to a request made by Opposition nominated Commissioner, Bibi Shadick at a previous meeting.

Commissioner Bibi Shadick speaking with the media on May 14, 2019, at GECOM

The Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzellon Tuesday presented her advice dated May 13, 2019, to Commissioners at a statutory meeting in which she declared that there is no need for house-to-house registration to create a new list of electors. Instead, she said the current list which expired at the end of April should be updated.

The opinion which is addressed to the Chairman, Commissioners and Chief Election Officer of GECOM, referred to The Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000, section 7(1) which states that “where there is an interval of more than six months after the qualifying date…which the official list of electors…is prepared under section 5(1) and the day appointed for the next election after that date, the Commissioner shall cause the official list of electors to be revised, in accordance with the procedure established by the commission by regulations.”

The subsections (a) and (b) of the clause explained that this process includes adding names of persons who may have become eligible for registration and deleting names of those who have ceased to be qualified.

In her legal opinion, which was shared by the PPP, Dazzell wrote: “The use of the word revise suggests that the process is not one where a new list is generated but one where the most recent list is updated or amended.”

She advised that procedures be put in place to ensure the “revision of the list, otherwise, the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice any by-election that may become necessary.”

The legal opinion was given at a time when a private citizen has filed an application in the High Court to block GECOM from going forward with the house-to-house registration exercise.

Additionally, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is preparing to rule in a matter which may necessitate early general and regional elections in Guyana.

Commissioner Desmond Trotman speaking with the media on May 14, 2019, at GECOM

Trotman is concerned that the opinion was offered at this juncture.

“One has to be concerned that this opinion she has offered has to do the fact that there is a challenge in the courts on the house-to-house registration,” he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon at GECOM.

He further contended that the opinion was not requested by the entire commission.

Trotman explained that while Ms. Shadick had previously requested an opinion on the list of electors, “there was no agreement from the Commission that this should go forward.”

Shadick, along with Opposition nominated Commissioners, Robeson Benn and SaseGunraj have been walking out of GECOM weekly statutory meetings during the months of March and April over refusal to discuss house-to-house registration.

Trotman accused the Legal Officer of being deceitful in moving ahead with the opinion before the full approval of the Commission.

“One of the things that were of concern to me is what I believe is an act of deceit on the part of the LO (Legal Officer) in relation to an opinion that she has offered,” he said.

Trotman added that, “She claims that she has put together this opinion sometime in April but every time we discuss this matter at the Commission, this request from Commissioner Shadick, she has never said she has an opinion in draft so for me, the appearance of this opinion today, is pregnant with suspicion.”

He has since requested an investigation into the legal opinion.

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