PSC calls on Carter Center to clear the air on polling places, wants GECOM to reverse changes made to list

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The Private Sector Commission (PSC), headed by Gerry Gouveia, is calling on the Carter Center to make clear its position as to whether it made recommendations to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to reduce the use of private residences as polling places following the 2015 general and regional elections.

The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is claiming that GECOM has removed polling places from all private residences on the East Coast of Demerara – a decision which the party said was made unilaterally by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield.

The PPP, via its Assistant Election Agent of the PPP, Anil Nandlall had first made it known that Chairman of GECOM Justice (Rt’d) Claudette Singh reportedly said the decision to reduce the use of private residences is a recommendation of the Carter Center that GECOM is implementing.

But the PSC in a statement Monday noted that it “checked and is informed that the Carter Center in its final report, following 2015, elections made no such recommendation and we call upon the Carter Center to immediately publicly make the Center’s position clear on this matter.”

The PSC also called on GECOM to reverse the “last minute” changes to the list of polling places for the March 2, general and regional elections.

The PSC said, it “takes extremely seriously the very real possibility that a significant number of voters may be disenfranchised by the changes made by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to a substantial number of polling places in a wide number of rural locations.”

The PPP is claiming that it had agreed to the initial list of polling places which was sent to them in January but changes were made to the list in February without the knowledge and consent of its appointed Commissioners who sit on the Commission.

The GECOM is yet to officially respond to the claims made by the PPP.

See below the full statement by the PSC:

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) takes extremely seriously the very real possibility that a significant number of voters may be disenfranchised by the changes made by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to a substantial number of polling places in a wide number of rural locations.

The Private Sector Commission wishes to point out that, while GECOM is bound in law to observe the statutory process requiring the Chief Election Officer to act within the authority of the Commission, he appears to have acted unilaterally and on his own by changing the location of polling places between January and February and without informing the contesting political parties.

The Private Sector Commission is dismayed at the claim reported in the media to have been made by the Chairman of GECOM that the decision to change the location of these polling places is in response to a recommendation made by the Carter Center that private residences, should not be used as polling places.

The PSC has checked and is informed that the Carter Center in its final report, following the 2015, elections made no such recommendation and we call upon the Carter Center to immediately publicly make the Center’s position clear on this matter.

The PSC must also point out that, in any event, GECOM has in fact identified a number of private residences for polling places and mainly in the urban area of Georgetown.

The Private Sector Commission is aware that the Chief Elections Officer had presented to the Commission in January a document assigning polling places which was acceptable to the contesting political parties who are represented on the Commission.

Given the factor of time involved, we urge that GECOM at the very minimum, promptly reverse the last minute and abrupt changes made in February to the assignment of polling places to those originally agreed upon in January.

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