GECOM admits PPP polling agent excluded from flight to Mazaruni

Disciplined Services voting

…claims plane was overweight

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has admitted to excluding a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) polling agent, among other agents, from boarding a plane it chartered that would have transported them to Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) for Disciplined Services voting on Friday.
This was communicated in a statement on Saturday, in which the Commission admitted that the PPP polling agent was not the only agent that was left behind. According to GECOM, agents from the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) and the United Republican Party (URP) were also left behind.
In justifying their exclusion from the flight, GECOM noted that they would have exceeded the weight limit for the plane which was also carrying balloting officers, GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander and a police officer.
“Chief Elections Officer Mr Keith Lowenfield held a meeting with election agents of all political parties on February 15th, to provide details pertaining to the operational activities for the conduct of Disciplined Services balloting and polling day for General and Regional Elections.”
“Subsequent to the meeting, the CEO provided a detailed movement plan, the payload for each aircraft and the number of persons that can be accommodated. On arrival at the Eugene F Correia airport on Friday, the pilot advised that all the scheduled passengers could not go on the flight since the weight was aboard the 600 lbs payload.”
According to GECOM, the pilot advised that two of the agents would not be able to go on the flight. It was, therefore, decided that no agents would be carried, rather than taking one agent and leaving two behind.
“This is a regrettable situation. However, in the interest of ensuring safety and that the statutory activity of Disciplined Services balloting proceeded as planned, the best decision was taken in this regard. The Guyana Elections Commission wishes to assure that the process was observed by international observers on the ground which lends itself to a level of transparency.”
Following Friday’s voting by the Joint Services, an issue was raised whereby one of the PPP’s polling agents, who was supposed to join a flight with a GECOM team to head to Mazaruni to observe the voting process there, was turned away due to “no space” being available.
“So, we have a situation there where polling is taking place without our polling agent thereafter being ejected from the flight by the officials. They were supposed to make arraignments to take the polling agents,” PPP’s Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali had contended.
PPP/C’s Executive Secretary and Chief Elections Scrutineer Zulfikar Mustapha also informed the media that he has since written to GECOM to bring the party’s concerns on the matter to their attention.

With the Disciplined Services voting out of the way, the general population is expected to go to the polls on March 2, 2020, to vote in what has been called the mother of all elections, which will determine the party that will form the Government to oversee Guyana’s oil wealth.
There was a total of 661,028 eligible voters on the OLE, which was completed late last month. In 2015, when GECOM had published the OLE ahead of elections that year, the total number of voters was 570,787. The increase has been explained as a feature of Continuous Registration.
The elections are expected to be watched intently, with a number of international observers and technical advisors in the country to oversee the process.

Polling places reduction
Already, preparation for polls has been marred by several controversies. The latest one has been GECOM’s decision to restrict the number of private polling places being used.
Chairperson of GECOM, retired Justice Claudette Singh has dismissed claims by the PPP/C that the Commission is attempting to frustrate and suppress voters on Elections Day by reducing the number of polling places.
However, Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall on Friday evening provided a sample of evidence to support his arguments that the unfair, inequitable and discriminatory allocation of polling places puts the average PPP/C voter at a disadvantage and creates an advantage in favour of the average APNU/AFC voter.
Nandlall had provided a random extract from GECOM’s List of Polling Places showing some polling places for Samantha Point/Caneville, East Bank Demerara, an APNU stronghold, that indicated a number of private residences and place of worship being used for a relatively small community.
In a second instance, another random extract from GECOM’s List of Polling Places showed some polling places for Guyhoc Park, Greater Georgetown, another APNU stronghold, also with a number of private residences that are being used for a relatively small community.
“Compare all the above with Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, a PPP stronghold where seven thousand (7000) voters are required to vote at two (2) schools located in the same compound and where GECOM has refused to use any private residences (or places of worship), although nine (9) private residences were used in 2015, without a singular complaint,” Nandlall had said.