GECOM to fill five major vacancies but Gunraj believes LGE still possible this year
Government nominated Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) Commissioner Sase Gunraj on Thursday said he believes Local Government Elections (LGE) was still “possible” this year.
There were at least five major vacancies to be filled at GECOM to ensure the smooth holding of those elections.
Gunraj was speaking moments after he and two other government-nominated Commissioners voted to fire Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, his Deputy Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer for the 2020 elections Clairmont Mingo. Mingo’s substantive position was Registration Officer at GECOM’s Fort Wellington Registration Office in Region Five.
President Irfaan Ali and other members of his government, including key figures in the private sector, had rejected going to any elections if those accused of fraud in the 2020 elections were still in place.
With the termination of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo taking effect on August 18, 2021, Gunraj said with serious intent and goodwill the elections could be held although it would require filling some of the existing vacancies first.
“I believe if the Guyana Elections Commission is serious about holding the elections as contemplated. We can put our shoulders to the wheel and ensure these vacancies are filled in a timely manner and the necessary preparations for the holding of elections are done,” he posited.
Gunraj said he hopes that whoever fills the vacant posts at GECOM will be persons who can perform the functions with dignity and in an ethical manner but he stressed the need for the seven-member Commission to support the process.
“It is my hope that my colleagues, as well, on the Commission will see the urgent need to have this done for us to be compliant with the laws to carry out our mandate as specified in the Constitution and let’s get the work done. Unfortunately, we have seen the tardiness at times that characterises the operations of GECOM. But I hope in this instance… we see the need to have this one and get it done quickly,” Gunraj added.
At minimum the vacant post of the Chief Elections Officer will have to be filled. GECOM is also without a Chief Accountant and a Legal Officer.
Some $1.1 billion has been allocated for LGE in the 2021 National Budget.
The preparation will entail the printing of ballot papers abroad and the training of hundreds of polling day staff.
The current voters list expired in January 2021. Using the voters list of 2018, when LGE was last held, some 500,000 ballot papers are to be printed for the 2021 local elections while $237.7 million has been set aside for the printing of materials.
There are to be some 17,000 polling stations established for LGE, of which mostly public buildings will be used. Additionally, $18 million was allocated for the training of 8,500 persons.