GECOM is supposed to be neutral

Dear Editor,
I read with intrepid interest, the daily newspapers of Saturday March 9, 2019, of the situation faced by GECOM which, as all Guyanese know, is tasked with holding elections particularly in relation to the position of house-to-house registration taken by a few Commissioners, and of the passing of Senior Counsel Bernard De Santos, with a heavy heart.
There could be a simple solution and a rather straightforward one to the situation faced by GECOM.
The Commissioners should be looking at how other election officials deal with the Guyana situation in their jurisdictions and scrutinise the local pertinent three legislations affecting its work, and make a decision concerning a specific date which must be reasonable, while simultaneously addressing the issue of the more than 40,000 new voters.
GECOM is supposed to be neutral and make decisions based on fairness or else Guyana can be seen as undemocratic, which is truly not in Guyana’s best interest.
I would, therefore, suggest viewing the decision-making processes employed of the personnel attached to decision-making of their respective countries when it came to the very important time of the calling of their national elections, and in identifying a suitable day, except any Sunday, which is always set aside as the Lord’s Day, in particular, some of the English originated countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Somalia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Nevis and Anguilla, and Jamaica.
The Charter expresses the commitment of member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.
The Charter also acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.
On a personal front, I have worked with the elections commission in Canada since 1978 in various roles during all three strata of electoral elections, ie, municipal, provincial and federal, and would suggest that GECOM cater for the (expected to be at least 40,000 voters) persons who are not on the List of Electors by Special Ballot.
This process would allow Guyana to avoid house-to-house registration yet cater for these aforesaid voters.
For example, Canada has been using Special Ballot. It takes an additional 5 minutes for that particular voter (as such a voter is directed to a special table set up beside the Returning Officer or Deputy Returning Officer which is manned by a Special Poll Clerk who is tasked with taking particulars of the voter – ie, things like driver’s licence, utility letter showing name and address, etc) to get authenticated, and then issued a ballot. Also, a period of one week is usually set aside prior to the date of election to allow any of those desirous to vote from either stream Special Ballot or regular ballot to cast an advance vote.
Whatever the route GECOM takes, I am not perturbed in any way, as I see seven excellent persons grappling with the issue of completing the elections in a reasonable speed, some being former Ministers of Government.
According to our current law, which is based on a Westminster model from our former mother country, England, Guyana needs to hold an election any time after March 20, so a date must now be set by the said seven persons.
In this way, whichever date is chosen whether in early July 2019, which seems to me, a reasonable one, given the current stalemate between the GECOM Commissioners, the date of the elections will be set, and thus, all candidates can then get themselves into campaigning mode officially.
Guyanese are very lucky people because in some countries, several people who are responsible for holding elections either get fired immediately or dismissed shortly thereafter when they do not perform diligently at their paid job functions. If the Honourable Chief Justice Chambers, tremendously busy as those Chambers are, could have ruled in the relevant court case due to the aftermath of the NCM, within a mere 25 business days, why can’t the relevant official in his/her neutral and non-partisan capacity and tasked with the job of holding elections not do so I ask.
I was under the impression that those two wonderful politicians, Amna Ally and Gail Teixeira, were supposed to have sorted out this matter by now, as the two major parties in Parliament try to find headway in our nation’s affairs. Perhaps, the seven persons dealing with this matter should consider having a tri-partite Meeting with themselves, Ally and Teixeira.

Yours truly,
M Shabeer Zafar,
Barrister and Solicitor
Former Berbice