GECOM using Claims and Objections to unlawfully disqualify voters – former House Speaker

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Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran has accused the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) of hijacking the Claims and Objections period to unlawfully disqualify electors.

Ramkarran, S.C. who is now the General Secretary of a political party –A New and United Guyana (ANUG) –in his weekly column, Conversation Tree, was referring to GECOM’s announcement that every citizen desirous of ensuring that they are listed on the final voter’s list must verify their registration record during the period of Claims and Objections.

The exercise is slated to begin Tuesday at all GECOM Registration Offices and will conclude on November 18, 2019.

“The Elections Commission has hijacked the Claims and Objection exercise from electors, who it is meant to facilitate, in order to itself utilise it unlawfully to disqualify electors,” Ramkarran said.

By law, the exercise provides eligible electors who did not register, the opportunity to gain entry to the list of electors or to update their information.  Persons can also object to particulars in the Preliminary List of Electors.

“Its objective is not to aid the Elections Commission or registration officials to verify the particulars of electors,” the former House Speaker pointed out.

With this new requirement for each voter to visit the registration office, Ramkarran emphasized that this intention of the Elections Commission is clearly to remove names of persons from the voters list who cannot visit the offices.

“It is clear that the intention behind the order requiring persons “in Guyana” whose names appear on the Preliminary List of Electors to verify their registration records for inclusion in the Official List of Electors is that persons who do not comply will have their names not included in the Official List of Electors and will be deprived of the right to vote,” he said.

Ralph Ramkarran, General Secretary of ANUG and former Speaker of the National Assembly

This move by GECOM is in contravention to a ruling made by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire on August 14. In the case of Christopher Ram’ challenge to the house-to-house registration, the CJ ruled that the controversial house-to-house registration is not unlawful but “the removal of names of persons who are already on the list of registrants…with a consequence of non-inclusion in the list of electors, would be unconstitutional, unless they are deceased or disqualified pursuant to Article 159(2) …[of] the National Registration Act.”

“It is subverting the Chief Justice’s decision, through the back door,” Ramkarran argued.

Chairman of GECOM, Justice (Rt’d) Claudette Singh on September 26 gazetted an order for the Claims and Objections period to begin this week. Ramkarran raised concerns with the name of the order which he said exposes its intention.

The order made under the National Registration Act is named The National Registration (Residents) Order and not, as would have been expected, “The National Registration (Claims and Objections) Order.”

“The naming of the Order unwittingly exposes its nefarious objective – to undo the decision of the Chief Justice that non-residents cannot be taken off the List,” the Senior Counsel said.

The clear objective of the exercise is to facilitate the change of information and make objections and is not a scheme to enable the Elections Commission itself to require all 500,000 plus electors within 50 days to prove their existence or suffer deletions from the list, he noted.

GECOM said on Friday that even if you do not have a claim or objection, you are still required to visit the Registration offices with your National Identification Card to verify your registration record.

The exercise will lead to the formulation of an official list of electors for the upcoming General and Regional Elections set for March 2, 2019.

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