Gov’t scoffs at advice by GECOM lawyer that new Voter’s List not needed

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The Government is not prepared to act on legal opinion given to Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by the body’s legal advisor which determined that there is no need to produce a new list of electors for general and regional elections.

At a post Cabinet media briefing, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon said, “we are prepared to act on statements that are provided by GECOM and not by any individual within that organization, be that individual a Commissioner or a staff of the Elections Commission.”

He added that it is “strange” that the opinion was floated when the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is considering matters with respect to elections in Guyana.

Harmon said the Government will only act on advice coming from GECOM as a collective body.

He said the legal opinion is considered to be an internal document of the Commission.

“At the appropriate time, if the Elections Commission wants to make a statement on it, they will make a statement. If in fact, they want to say something to the administration, they are provided for under the arrangement in which the President has said to GECOM that he is prepared to meet with them at short notice,” the Former Minister of State said.

Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzell

GECOM’s Legal Officer Excellence Dazzell on Tuesday offered a legal opinion to the Chair and Commissioners in response to a request made by Opposition nominated Commissioner Bibi Shadick at a previous meeting.

The Legal Officer 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 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 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 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.

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