We are into the election season and I think it is vital and necessary for us to review the basic mechanics of an election. In the first place, we have an electoral body called GECOM, whose sole responsibility is to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections. That is their sole responsibility.
Now, that free and fair process is pretty simple and straightforward; that is, you being born a Guyanese and attaining the age of majority, which is 18 years, you get yourself registered and that’s about it— you are eligible to vote, that is, legally entitled to vote. If you are a commonwealth citizen/resident in Guyana for over the period of one calendar year, then you are also eligible to get yourself registered to vote. If you are a citizen of a non-commonwealth country, for example, Haiti or Venezuela, then you are only eligible to engage in our electoral process either by marriage to a Guyanese or by registration— that is, having lived here continuously for over a period of 5 years.
Now that I have dealt with the dos or the things that make for one’s legal entitlement to vote in an election here, I shall go on to explain the don’ts of an electoral process in Guyana. The Constitution of Guyana prohibits a person below the age of 18 years to vote. Secondly, you are shut out of the electoral process if you are a citizen of a non-commonwealth or a country that was not a former colony of Great Britain and living here under five years. Thirdly, if you are of unsound mind, incarcerated or dead. In the last-mentioned state, that is, being declared dead, is not at the whims and fancies of anyone, or a “he said-she said” that the person is dead, that information has to be verified by the General Registrar of births and deaths. So, that sums up the voting procedure in Guyana. Now, you would have noticed that I made no specific mention of an identification card being the sole requirement to vote, for the simple reason that it is not a legal requirement, seeing an identification card is not the only voter ID that can be used. There is no nexus between someone being in possession of an identification card and being eligible to vote; none whatsoever! The registrant is legally entitled to vote with whatever form of ID you, the individual, deem best— that is the law!
So, when GECOM issued that edict that some 28,000 persons must take up their ID Cards and be eligible to vote in the next election, that, in itself, is an illegal order. It contravenes the expressed dictates of our Constitution. This latest order by GECOM’s Chairwoman is a political decision and must be condemned for all its worth. This is not the Commission’s role, once you have stepped out of that zone of ensuring that every eligible voter becoming registered, to one of being a partisan voice for a party or government, you are treading on illegal and dangerous grounds.
What is even more frightening, is the fact that this Chairwoman is supposed to be a legal person or former Judge who is at the forefront of such stupidity. Justice Claudette Singh is facilitating this illegality which makes the situation preposterous, to say the least!
And, may I add, no commission has any right to track down or harass a voter or use any intimidating tactics against a voter or non-voter. The right to vote or not to vote is the sole, let me repeat, is the sole responsibility of the registrant and not the concern of GECOM. No election commission has the right to debar or disenfranchise a voter on the flimsiest of reasons that someone failed to uplift his/her ID card, whether overtly or covertly. So, on behalf of all right-thinking, law-abiding citizens, this latest act of GECOM must be rescinded forthwith!