— exercise to run for 35 days, Dec 31 set as qualifying date
— GECOM to also reach out to US, Commonwealth
By Jarryl Bryan
Following a meeting of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday, it has been announced that Claims and Objections will start on October 1— a necessary move towards having an Official List of Electors (OLE) to conduct elections.
This was confirmed by Opposition Commissioner Bibi Shadick after she exited the meeting. According to Shadick, the meeting also resulted in a decision to hold Claims and Objections for 35 days, with the qualifying date to be eligible to vote being December 31.
Meanwhile, Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander explained that the meeting also resulted in another decision, that is, for GECOM to engage the United States and the Commonwealth in order to seek clarity on what observer teams they will be sending.
“Two (decisions) were unanimous, and one saw a dissenting voice. We didn’t have an update on (encoding of House-to-House data). We’ve kind of put that as a parallel. What we understand is that that process will conclude in a sufficient time for the information to be available for use in cross matching and some claims and objections”.
“We are working towards the timetable set in the communicate decision of the Chairman, for the Commission to be ready by the end of February (2020),” Alexander added when asked if GECOM is on track to meet the timeframe GECOM Chair retired Justice Claudette Singh gave to President David Granger last week.
When asked about the court action filed by Attorney General Basil Williams, seeking to overturn the High Court decision that persons cannot be removed from the Register of Registrants for residency purposes, Alexander noted that they would cross that bridge when they get there.
“For the time being, we’re not focusing on that. We’re focusing on getting on with our work… (the printing of ballots) are in the timeframe. Things like ballots are on the critical path which lead us to the end of February. You don’t print ballots before nomination date”.
In his appeal, Williams is contesting most of the major points from the Chief Justice’s August 14 ruling. One of the major contestations in the Notice of Appeal (NOA) is the residency requirement for being registered.
The Chief Justice had ruled that persons, once registered, could not be removed by enumerators without just cause. In the AG’s appeal, however, the Chief Justice is accused of being misconceived in law by not properly considering Section 6 of the National Registration Act.
According to the AG, Section 6 of the Act makes residency a requirement for registration during the qualifying date period. The AG is also alleging that the Chief Justice, somehow, breached the separation of powers doctrine by ruling that GECOM could not remove registrants who were alive and well.
In fact, there are more than 15 points in the NOA in which the AG claims the CJ misinterpreted the law or misdirected herself. In that NOA, the AG had asked for the Chief Justice’s judgement to be set aside and for costs to be paid to him.
According to the summons taken out by Solicitor General Nigel Hawke on Williams’ behalf on September 20, the AG is also seeking an interim stay of part of the judgements from the CJ, until the hearing to determine the merits of the substantive appeal.
The original appellant, anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram, as well as Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, the Commissioner of National Registration and GECOM itself were named as the respondents. The Bar Association was also summoned to appear Amicus Curiae.