APNU+AFC ‘running in circles’ – Rohee says of Coalition’s unpreparedness for LGE

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In light of repeated requests by the APNU+AFC coalition for a clean voters list and an apparent attempt to stall the run-off of long overdue local government polls, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner Clement Rohee believes the main parliamentary opposition is “running around in circles”.

The Coalition in recent utterances through party statements and comments by Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton seems bent on dodging Local Government Elections (LGE) and sources have indicated that it is linked to its own unpreparedness amid an ongoing leadership crisis.

The repeated demands for a clean voters’ list ahead of LGE are being linked to allegations levelled by the APNU+AFC of voter fraud during the March 02, 2020 general and regional elections; the allegations include deceased persons purportedly voting, as well as persons who were overseas.

“GECOM has already made it clear that GECOM is not an investigating body; they expect GECOM to go on another house-to-house exercise to find out who is dead and who is resident in Guyana, that’s not GECOM’s role. GECOM’s constitutional role is for the supervision and the conduct of elections,” Rohee explained.

During a telephone interview with the News Room on Wednesday, the GECOM Commissioner emphasised that investigations of such nature must be conducted by the relevant state agencies, namely the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and General Register Office (GRO).

“Any other investigation, when it comes to whether persons are in the country or whether persons are dead must be done by the General Register Office which records the deaths, or the Chief Immigration Officer who has records of persons departing and entering the jurisdiction,” he said.

But despite this position which has been repeated by officials at GECOM, other political parties, and ruled on by the High Court in a 2019 judgment handed down by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, S.C, the opposition through its nominated commissioners at GECOM continues to obstruct and frustrate preparations for the holding of LGE early next year.

Rohee noted that the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh has already written to the APNU+AFC requesting the list of names of persons who they claim are deceased or were out of the country and voted.

“This is in keeping with the argument that there is a bloated list when in fact there is no such thing as a bloated list because continuous registration puts people on the list. So long as you embark on a continuous registration exercise the idea is to include people 18 years and above on the list,” Rohee said.

“To get someone off the list, it means that person has to have someone who goes during the period of claims and objections to either object to the name and they have to have credible evidence to do so or to make a claim that the person should be on the list,” he added.

Notably, GECOM commenced its Claims and Objections exercise in August 2022 and ended same in September 2022.

“What they are pushing for is for GECOM to do what it is not constitutionally empowered to do; they want GECOM to do work for them, it is not going to happen,” Rohee said.

“GECOM has done what is fit and proper, which is to send whatever information they have sent to the police and to the GRO for them to do the investigation on whatever they are asking GECOM to do,” he added.

Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton speaks with the press outside the Office of the President (Photo: News Room/May 13, 2022)

On October 12, 2022, GECOM issued a statement noting that the commission was awaiting a response from the APNU+AFC to submit information relating to allegations of voters’ impersonation to the GPF so that investigations into the matter can commence.

A press release from the Leader of the Opposition Office dated October 18, 2022 noted that the APNU+AFC responded and indicated to GECOM that the required addresses were provided.

However, when asked if he is knowledgeable about whether or not those addresses were submitted, Rohee responded, “No, I can’t say whether addresses were included, I’m not aware of that.”

“They seem to be running around in circles and I think effectively they are trying to make themselves appear credible when in fact the nation knows that these elements who are trying to be credible today were the ones who tried as hard as they can to discredit the electoral process in this country,” Rohee said.

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