Weeks later: GECOM still to discuss electoral reform recommendations sent to Gov’t

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Months after the government invited recommendations to complement its draft electoral reform laws, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to find consensus on its own proposals even as wide consultations on the reforms commenced this week ahead of its introduction to the National Assembly.

Although those discussions were part of the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting of the Commission, those talks never materialised, two GECOM Commissioners confirmed.

GECOM has forwarded recommendations to the government through the Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira but there is no consensus on those recommendations since they are split with one set coming from the three PPP/C nominated commissioners and another set from the APNU+AFC nominated commissioners.

The importance of a discussion on these recommendations now is not known but already, Commissioner Vincent Alexander has told the media that among recommendations from his side is for a biometric system to be introduced for voters to cast their ballots.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Bibi Shadick told the News Room that those discussions are yet to be entertained at the Commission level also the Commission, outside of participating in the consultations, has no role in deciding the final changes to the elections laws that will make its way to the National Assembly.

Notwithstanding, Shadick believes that the Commission meetings in recent weeks are being used to settle personal scores and represent personal interests instead of policy work.

“They [the APNU+AFC nominated commissioners] just take up time on personal issues and the commission meetings have become a stress zone. A Stressful event where no real issues take center stage,” Shadick said.

But Commissioner Sase Gunraj has said that among agenda items being addressed are reports on the ongoing continuous registration exercise, employment issues and procurement issues.

Shadick maintains that although these items are on the agenda, personal issues are being stretched out. She said at Tuesday’s meeting, the APNU+AF Commissioners took well over one hour to advocacate for monies owed to the dismissed Personal Assistant to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Duarte Hetsberger.

She said there were also concerns about the confirmation of Melanie Marshall as the Voter Registration Manager.

“The whole thing comes down to a personal endeavor where they are finding issues to now represent and fighting for people,” Shadick added.

She particularly wants the discussion on the recommendations for changes to the country’s elections laws to be discussed at the level of the Commission.

On Monday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, S.C held the first installment of public consultations on the draft proposed amendments of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA).

A press release noted that the consultations saw the attendance of representatives of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Electoral Reform Group, among others.

The draft proposed amendments to the RoPA were released by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance in November 2021 inviting recommendations and comments from the public at large.

Among the proposed amendments are multi-million dollar fines and hefty jail times ranging from five to ten years for election offences.

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