Chief scrutineer concerned about foreign nationals being registered
…notes danger of persons having false ID cards
The influx of foreign nationals entering Guyana and the lack of information as to whether they leave is a cause for worry, especially as House-to-House Registration is ongoing and fake documents have previously surfaced in an election season.
According to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Chief Elections Scrutineer Zulfikar Mustapha, this is a problem considering the fact that thousands of immigrants cannot be accounted for after arriving in Guyana.
“These people are getting special treatment at the airport, coming into the country. There are reports that they are getting special treatment and are being whisked away and are being housed at different places. So we are very concerned,” Mustapha told this publication on Saturday.
He added that there is a lack of accountability with respect to where those immigrants are staying and their purpose in Guyana.
“According to the statistics, 8600 came in for the year and only 13 left. So where are they going? I am concerned that they are being registered illegally, to be placed on the voters’ list. All those questions we have to ask”.
He pointed to the case of the man who was found with a fake Guyana Identification (ID) Card in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) last year. At the time, unilaterally-appointed former Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman Retired Justice James Patterson had described the find as possibly the “tip of the iceberg”.
“That was a very serious thing when they found the man with the fake ID. So that is a cause for serious concern. Those things can happen. And right now, they are in the process of going house to house and registering people. It seems to have a sinister motive,” Mustapha pointed out.
It was only recently that the media highlighted the fact that for the past seven months, 8600 Haitian immigrants entered the country and only 13 left. There has also been a large influx of Cubans and Venezuelans. Sections of the media followed some Haitians who were chaperoned by the busload in a clandestine but organised manner.
Last year, the Citizenship Ministry had revealed to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament that over 22,000 persons entered Guyana from January to April. The Ministry had revealed that of this number, only 6, 170 had departed. In addition, it was shown that there are no records of 17,615 immigrants departing from 2013 to 2018.
Back in March of this year, it was revealed that despite having thousands of Haitians who entered Guyana being unaccounted for last year, the coalition Government had sought to extend the time that Haitians spend in Guyana to an automatic six months.
This comes even as GECOM has commenced House-to-House Registration in July, despite concerns from civil society, the private sector, and parliamentary Opposition that it would delay the constitutionally-mandated elections due in September.
There was opposition to the exercise on the grounds that it violates the Constitution and the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In a move to prevent the violation of Guyana’s Constitution, Attorney-at-Law and Anti-Corruption Activist Christopher Ram had filed a case before the High Court in which he sought an injunction against the exercise. That challenge is still engaging the High Court.
While Government has supported this process to produce what it described as a ‘clean’ list, a large number of persons have boycotted the process. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that the current H2H is ‘illegal’ and asserted that a clean list of electors cannot be produced if thousands refuse to register. Importantly, PPP scrutineers are not involved in the process.