GECOM making over 91,000 changes to RLE outside statutory period

General and Regional Elections

…deliberate ploy to create confusion – PPP/C’s Chief Scrutineer

Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) dropped a bombshell on both its Opposition and Government-nominated Commissioners on Tuesday, when the Secretariat informed them that over 91,000 changes are being made to the Revised List of Electors (RLE).

GECOM Commissioner
Robeson Benn

Speaking with Guyana Times on the matter, Opposition-nominated Commissioner, Robeson Benn said that the announcement came as a complete shock and “so it is a very unhappy situation”.
“Over 91,000 names, I am calling them names because they said there are changes and so to me, a change relates to a name. So the presumed addition of these changes/names is that it would be occurring outside of the statutory period for which such changes could be made for addition to the Official List of Electors,” Benn told this publication.

GECOM Chair Retired Justice Claudette Singh

He added that as a Commissioner, he along with his fellow Commissioners were told that within the period there were some changes to be made and that the Chief Elections Officer as Commissioner of Registration could make changes.
“…our understanding that was that would have been a relatively small number of changes. We subsequently heard that the changes underway amounted to some 10,000 and we were concerned then but then thought that it would be to tidy up and that would be the end of the matter – meaning simple name changes – though they kept saying changes of addresses,” Benn said.

PPP/C’s Chief Scrutineer Zulfikar Mustapha

He said, however, that at Tuesday’s statutory meeting, the situation took a drastic turn when they were blindsided with what he described as an “impossible number”.
“But then today we got hit with what I would think is an impossible number to contemplate, in that over 91,000 changes – in our view names – are being made to the list of persons to be added to the Official List of Electors. Our understanding is a simple rough calculation would suggest that it affects about 25 per cent or so of the total list of electors. In addition that fact that we were not told the enormity of this exercise – what it all entails and the fact that the stakeholders themselves were not informed of the extent of this activity is viewed with alarm and suspicion,” Benn stated.
He added that there is deep concern about what is occurring both at the Commissioners and at the party (People’s Progressive Party/Civic) levels. According to Benn, the problem is what the PPP/C has always warned about – ie the use of House-to-House Registration data.
“I myself had said today (Tuesday) that all the changes which are contemplated – the names of the persons, their ID numbers, their addresses – should be published in the national newspapers (advertised) and also posted at the registration offices. This suggestion was not taken up,” Benn said.
“I believe that the number of changes will be more than 91,000 and the problem is that it has the great potential of creating confusion on Elections Day, that is you may turn up at a polling station and discover that where you thought you had to vote, you may be in some other place where you may not be able to get to on Elections Day.”
He stated that a complete list of all the changes is expected to be sent to the GECOM Commissioners today.

Deliberate ploy
Meanwhile, speaking with Guyana Times, PPP/C’s Chief Scrutineer, Zulfikar Mustapha said that the international community should take note of this occurrence at GECOM.
“This is a deliberate ploy and will create a mass of confusion on Election Day. This confusion we had in 1990 when the entire list had to be scrapped and they had to do fresh House-to-House Registration. So it seems as if this is a deliberate ploy by the Secretariat to effect these changes,” Mustapha said. According to him, this can lead to the issue of persons not finding their names in the respective areas/divisions.
“This is very dangerous and the international community plus those observers that are in the country should take note and examine this…because this is very serious. This is the last minute leading up to election and if these changes are made wholesale like that then it will affect thousands of persons who will not be able to vote on Election Day because they may not be able to find their particulars at the correct division.”
Mustapha is calling on the Chair of GECOM, retired Justice Claudette Singh to address this matter frontally.