Following the discovery of major discrepancies in the list of “new” registrants generated from the scrapped House-to-House (H2H) Registration exercise, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) convened an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the way forward on the matter after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has refused to take the onus of conducting the verification process which GECOM has hurled at them. Chief Scrutineer of the Opposition, Zulfikar Mustapha, told Guyana Times that the party remains unwavering in their decision for 100 per cent verification to be done.
“The entire data from the H2H Registration that I saw is flawed and that demands a total verification and that verification has to be done by GECOM and the stakeholders because GECOM is the only party that can do verification and the stakeholders are there to scrutinise the process, so you can’t get the stakeholder to go and do verification.”
He added that the onus is on GECOM to do the verification and not the PPP.
“When I look at the data, the entire data is flawed, it’s corrupted and they have to get proper verification that is done to ensure that those data are flawless…so we are demanding that we should have total verification and GECOM must bid that process. They have to get GECOM officials with the stakeholders…the [political] party to go and do it,” Mustapha expressed.
Some 370,000 registrations obtained during the scrapped H2H Registration exercise were sent overseas to be cross-matched with the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) in order to filter out the duplicates.
Gemalto indicated that some 37,300 were new registrants who are eligible for voting, that is, they are above the age of 18. However, an internal check conducted by GECOM revealed that approximately 17,000 of those “new registrants” were already on the voters’ list and some have even voted in the past. The remaining 20,000 “new names” were up for further verification.
On Saturday last, as the PPP scrutinised the list of “new” registrants, names of persons who were previously registered and others who are dead are on that list. In two instances of previously registered persons, former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Retired Justice Cecil Kennard is listed as a ‘new’ registrant with his occupation being Chancellor. However, Justice Kennard retired many years ago and a search of the 2015 Official List of Electors and the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) showed that he was on that list. In another instance, former Member of Parliament and Attorney-at-Law Jai Lall Kissoon is listed as a ‘new’ registrant. A perusal of the 2015 OLE and the PLE also shows that he is already registered. Additionally, the brother of a former Guyana Revenue Authority official, who died in 2007 is listed as a ‘new’ registrant. Addressing the issue at a luncheon in New York on Saturday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said that the party has found that thousands of persons who are listed as “new” registrants are already on the PLE.
“Just to show how things evolve, I left Guyana Friday morning under the impression that we will have 20,556 persons, who they claimed are new registrants that GECOM will [carry out the] verification of those persons before they’re added to the voters’ list or the NRR from which they will extract the OLE…By the time I’m driving to the airport, it changed. So Lowenfield [Keith] called Zulfikar [Mustapha] that the PPP will have to do the verification, not GECOM. And so that can result now in 20000 names being added to the voters’ list who are unverified…To get it down to 20,000 was another fight…We managed to get the numbers down from 37000 to 20000 after they did the fingerprint cross-matching…We found 50 per cent of the new people already in [the] list… they just found former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard is now on the list of new registrants. He’s already on the PLE but part of the 20,000 new registrants,” the Opposition Leader said.
Earlier last week, it was reported that the Government-nominated Commissioners were pushing to have a sample survey done from a sample size of 10 per cent of the 20,000 “new names”, to have them verified before they are placed on the voters’ list – a process which the PPP Opposition had objected.
In a statement on Friday, PPP Executive and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall indicated that the Elections Commission will not be verifying the names.
“Today (Friday), GECOM has decided that it will do no verification; that the PPP scrutineers alone will have to do the field verification checks in respect of these new intended registrants and that GECOM officials will only work in the offices. This is totally unacceptable,” Nandlall contended.
He noted that this decision by the Commission can only be viewed as retrograde and has the potential of impugning the integrity of the OLE and by extension, the entire General and Regional Elections set for March 2, 2020.
“I can understand why the Government Commissioners may not want a 100 per cent verification exercise, because if this data is padded and fraudulent then the verification exercise will unmask it. However, the law mandates that not a single name must eventuate onto the OLE without verification. GECOM has an unconditional duty to ensure compliance with this legal requirement. Nothing short will suffice,” the former Attorney General asserted.
On August 27, GECOM had announced that the controversial House-to-House Registration process would be halted on August 31.
The Commissioners are expected to reconvene today to continue discussions.