GECOM now wants APNU/AFC’s approval for more counting stations

….as PPP maintains COVID-19 Taskforce permission not needed

The Guyana Elections Commission on Tuesday met to consider measures that can be implemented to ensure that the National Recount of the votes cast on March 2 is completed within the initially agreed upon 25-day deadline, including increasing the number of counting stations, number of working hours to be utilised in any given day and the reduction of counting criteria.
Two of the three decisions, however, will be dependent on guidance to be solicited from the National coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Task Force even as People’s Progressive Party Commissioner, Sase Gunraj, objected to the Commission seeking permission from the Government body.
GECOM Public Relations Officer, (PRO) Yolanda Ward, briefing media operatives on the sidelines of the recount exercise underway at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), indicated that a decision was taken by the Commission to invite officials from the Task Force to be returned to the venue in order to assess whether additional counting stations could be accommodated.
She told media operatives the Commissioners have identified some potential areas for use in the facility and that the Chairperson requested that the Task Force field health officials today sometime around noon, in order “to have a look at those spaces to determine whether they would be conducive to have counting station.”
According to Ward, the Commission is looking to have an on the spot decision by the Government body with regards to the establishment of additional stations.
Speaking with reporters following the Commission’s meeting, Gunraj, when confronted with the likelihood of the Task Force refusing additional stations, reiterated his adumbrations that GECOM is an independent constitutional body and that it did not need permission from the Task Force in order to establish more counting stations.
Gunraj was adamant, “while I recognise and appreciate the importance of COVID-19 and the effect it’s having on the world, I have lots of respect for it, perhaps even fear; however, GECOM is an independent body.”
He told reporters that he believes that “with the necessary medical advice, I believe we are free to make decisions in relation to the use of this building.”
According to Gunraj, “from the outset, let me say and I have said this before, I don’t believe that we should be seeking permission from the COVID 19 Task Force.”
The PPP GECOM Commissioner told reporters, “what we should be doing is making decisions, informed decisions based on medical advice”
He maintained that the COVID-19 Task Force should merely be informed, “but we are adopting a different stance and as I said earlier.”
He qualified the position saying “I am part of a democratic organisation, hopefully, and I will let democracy prevail.”
Additionally, Gunraj told reporters “if for whatever reason that the number of work stations that are possible here is somewhat fettered, then the other option that we have, impacts on the time, the overall duration.”
He suggested that this would be to “increase the number of hours we work in a day…It is an option that is eminently available to us and if it becomes necessary.”
According to Gunraj, “even with the increased work stations, it is also something that can be considered so as to facilitate a timely conclusion of this process.”
Expressing some optimism over Tuesday’s meeting with the Commissioners, Gunraj maintained “the Commission as a whole, as I said, feels that this thing needs to be done in a timely manner…everyone, on both sides, all seven members thinks ‘look, this thing is getting overbearing’.”
Additionally, Gunraj told reporters that other mechanisms being explored in order to reduce the amount of time being taken to complete the recount includes modifying the 19-point checklist that had been introduced for inspections of the boxes and its contents.
According to Gunraj, the checklist provides for a number of actions to be taken that have since proven to be unnecessary and time-consuming.