GECOM hit by protests

…as calls for constitutionally mandated elections intensify
…Opposition vows to protect Constitution
Hundreds of protesters braved the sun, scattered showers and Police barricades on Tuesday to protest against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), demanding that the Commission hold elections within the constitutionally stipulated timeline.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on the frontlines of the protest

Police had erected barricades stretching from Lamaha to Parade Streets and blocked off all the cross streets early Tuesday morning in anticipation of protest action. Protesters were not deterred, however, marching along High Street chanting for GECOM to respect the Constitution of Guyana.
Protesters were accompanied by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and the Party’s presidential candidate along with several high-ranking Party officials. In an interview with the media, Jagdeo outlined that the objectives of the protest were to demonstrate how serious the people are about constitutional compliance.
“I think the President, GECOM need to understand how seriously we take this matter. The legislature has spoken. The judiciary has spoken. The President, over the weekend, seems to believe that none of this matters. And so we have to show him that we are serious about having him respect our Constitution,” Jagdeo said.
“So today (Tuesday), you see a tiny expression of this and it will grow if the Government continues to violate the Constitution. I saw the (July) timeline that GECOM gave and that’s out of the question. I noticed the type of activities they have there, that can be done simultaneously to hold elections within the constitutionally due period.”

Protesters on High Street, Georgetown on Tuesday

Jagdeo also noted GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield acknowledging that the current voters’ list is valid until April 30, 2019 – a month after elections are supposed to be held.
“He must know. He’s worked with this list. There have been no complaints about the list for Local Government Elections. So this claim that the list is suddenly flawed is a spurious claim,” Jagdeo said.
“We made it clear that house-to-house registration is out of the question. He presented an option for house-to-house registration that will take us into February, March of next year. That is the implication if we go to house-to-house registration.”

Ramping up
Meanwhile, PPP/C Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali made it clear that protest action would be ramped up if GECOM did not comply with the Constitution. He noted that everyone has a role to play now in protecting Guyana’s Constitution from being violated.

Protesters outside of GECOM Headquarters

“The Parliament and court made it clear that we must have elections. So we are here for democracy and respect for the Constitution. There was a no-confidence vote. The Parliament and the court made it clear that we must have elections. So we are here to uphold the Constitution and the democratic right of citizens.
“GECOM has a moral and ethical responsibility to get elections done before March 19. What is before the Commission now is to come up with actions to ensure this. So I don’t know where this thing about July is coming in. There is only one way that date can be extended. And Opposition and Government have to agree by a two-thirds majority.”
Ali noted that the PPP has been meeting with representatives of the international community, including donor agencies and the diplomatic corps. Now, he pointed out that the people themselves have come out in protest. He made it clear that such activities will be ramped up to ensure the Constitution is followed.
While the protests were being carried out a street away, GECOM officials were locked in meetings as a resolution was sought for holding elections. Work plans for holding elections were given to Commissioners on Monday, to be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. However, those meetings were not fruitful. The protest action will continue on Thursday.