President satisfied with GECOM’s preparations for elections

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President David Granger on Friday afternoon met with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to discuss the body’s preparedness for the March 2020 general and regional elections.

The meeting lasted for approximately 30 minutes at the Ministry of the Presidency’s Vlissengen Road, Georgetown office.

In a video statement, the President said the government is satisfied that preparations are onstream for a timely elections process.

“I got the clear impression from the Chairman (retired Justice Claudette Singh) and all of the Commissioners that they were quite satisfied that the preparations for elections were onstream and that we can all look forward having a credible and efficient election by the 2nd of March,” he said.

The Government was also joined by Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon, Ministers of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, Public Infrastructure David Patterson, Housing Minister Annette Ferguson, Public Service Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, Attorney General Basil Williams and Business Haimraj Ramkumar.

According to Harmon, GECOM informed the Government that the Revised List of Electors will be provided on December 29.

In this vein, the President on Friday issued the proclamations to dissolve the National Assembly and the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs).

The government reaffirmed its trust in GECOM to hold a free and fair elections process.

Upon exiting the meeting, Commissioners told the media that among issues discussed was funds for GECOM beyond the current Budget year which ends on December 31, 2019.

“He was assured that we are basically online [to hold elections on March 2]; there are some internal issues with respect to reports which we have to deal with –receive and then deal with.

“There was the question of money [and] it was pointed out that the money should be available in any event and the request for any approvals through the Ministry of Finance should be dealt with expeditiously,” Opposition nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn told the media.

Commissioner Sase Gunraj noted that “elections are very cost-intensive events and I hope that the availability of funds or lack thereof, does not form a fetter on our ability to hold elections.”

He noted that GECOM has increased its work to ensure that everything is done on time for the elections which is less than three months away.

According to Government nominated Commissioner, Vincent Alexander the commission GECOM has had some issues with finalizing the Revised List of Electors.

“We have to finalise the information coming out of Claims and Objections and coming out of the House-to-House registration exercise so we can commit those names plus information coming out of the cross-matching,” Alexander noted.

The recent issue which has been engaging GECOM attention is the thousands of registrants from the H2H registration exercise which have not been verified. 

After a five-day verification done by the Commission, it was found that 10,329 names were confirmed to be living at the addresses given during the July-August exercise but 6,534 were not at their residences.

Alexander, when questioned on the issue, said he sees no reason for the concern. The Commissioner defended the number noting that “you have Guyanese who came home, got registered and would have gone back and the registration are as legal as those thousands overseas which we wanted to have some verification on and there were persons who resister that verification and now they want to verify persons who were recently registered and verified by a legal process.”

From the inception of the H2H exercise, the opposition had argued that persons who resides overseas will be disenfranchised since they will not be at their homes to registered. This prompted a court case by a private citizen who resides in the UK.

However, the case was withdrawn when the High Court ruled in a related matter that the exercise is not unlawful but should not be used to remove names of persons from the National Register of Registrants. This prompted the Chairman of GECOM, retired Justice Claudette Singh to discontinue the exercise to begin preparations for elections.

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