GECOM ‘in no position at this point’ to prove authenticity of death certificates – Ward
As the national recount of votes cast on March 2 continues at the Arthur Chung Conference Center, agents of the APNU+AFC Coalition have been presenting death certificates as evidence these persons voted.
But Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Yolanda Ward says the electoral body cannot determine the authenticity of the documents submitted.
“GECOM is in no position at this point to check on authenticity of any of those documentation,” Ward told the media on Wednesday.
She is unaware of the specific number of death certificates received thus far.
The death certificates are submitted at the counting stations by APNU+AFC representatives and are attached to the observation reports which document objections raised during the recount of ballots.
“…so the decision of the Commission up to this point is that it be attached to the report pending their final decisions as to how they move forward in that regard,” Ward said.
Ward further explained that GECOM has a system in place where the Guyana Registrar Office (GRO) provides the Secretariat with a monthly death report and so those names will be removed from the National Registrar of Registrants.
However, the Secretariat cannot remove the names of deceased persons once the Official List of Electors (OLE) is published.
“We do have a system in place where the GRO provides us with a monthly death report. We also have cases too where there are persons who may die but their deaths are not registered at all or possibly not registered at that time….but we do have a system in place where the GRO submit to us monthly death reports.
“…but after a list has been produced for example for the general and regional elections…we have not been able to do any removal from the OLE prior to the publication of the list of electors,” Ward said.
The coalition has back-peddled on its earlier claims that the March 02, elections were free, fair and credible and have now come forward with allegations of votes being cast for persons who are dead or were not in the country on elections day.
The incumbent APNU+AFC is also concerned with other procedural anomalies that are being discovered as ballot boxes are reopened during the recount.
Ganesh Mahipaul, a counting agent for the APNU+AFC on Tuesday told the media that he has over 100 death certificates in his possession and when those boxes are opened, he will ask whether those persons have voted.
He was asked to present to the media one of those certificates and has since sent one with the name Chitnandani Ramdass who died on June 6, 2015.
Ramdass on the Official List of Electors is registered at 061 Middle Street Maria’s Lodge Essequibo Coast.
It is unclear whether Ramdass was ticked off as voted and Mahipaul told the media that “my station, I have objected thus far to people who have migrated…”
He explained that the deceased persons at his station were not ticked off as having voted.
Meanwhile, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj told the media on Wednesday that at the end of the process, the Commission will deliberate on the reports submitted.
Gunraj disclosed that the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has undertaken to submit the reports as the various electoral regions are completed.
The recount process was initiated after the votes in Region Four were increased by the Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to favour the APNU+AFC Coalition.
Government nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander was asked about GECOM’s role in dealing with any electoral fraud.
“I presume that GECOM could be involved in prosecution,” he said.
He said GECOM does not have its own prosecution arm and has been referring such matters to the Police but Alexander expressed disappointment that there have not been many prosecutions from those matters.
“The matters of prosecution of charges is not a good record. There has been little or no action in the man instances in the many years if not decades that GECOM has referred matters to the police,” he said.
As such he added that it is not impossible for GECOM to have such a department.