It cannot be denied that the decision to commence House-to-House Registration activities by Keith Lowenfield, CEO of GECOM’s Secretariat, is outright irrational and consummate illegality, as it runs counter to the conduct of the constitutionally instructive position of the institution conducting elections within three months of the passing of the No-Confidence Motion. Aside from the welcoming pronouncements on the matter by the Leader of the Opposition, reports have confirmed that many citizens on their own accord have refused to cooperate in the orchestrated conundrum that advances a breach of the Constitution.
It is the view of this column that GECOM cannot successfully prosecute any citizen in this stead, given the published threats caused to be published by Lowenfield. The deliberate and pervasive nature of this orchestrated illegality must be condemned from its biased intent to every glaringly abusive strand in its futile attempt to justify and cover-up. There has been conjured up falsified reports regarding the success of the ongoing illegal House-to-House activities, which is nothing but a proliferated smothering of fraudulent spending at the GECOM Secretariat level that would be very revealing with a forensic audit and the devious players must be held accountable.
The Government-controlled Chronicle Newspaper in particular recently reported the completion of in excess of 150,000 registrations. This high propaganda mouthpiece of the Government has been most vocal in putting a spin regarding the flawed success of the activities. Essentially, the reports attempt to influence the considerations of the Judge in the ongoing court challenge, which seeks to halt the unnecessary process by arguing that GECOM cannot complete the activities in time to support the holding of Regional and National Elections by “three months” (September 18, 2019 timeline, after the instructive rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Politically, the results of these ongoing ‘flam’ registration activities cannot stand up to scrutiny and should not be accepted by the Opposition or any other civil stakeholder affected by the process. While the registration forms include signature areas for countersigning validation by Opposition Scrutineers, only the PNC/APNU Scrutineers are signing. This is because administratively, the GECOM Secretariat did not inform and request from the PPP Chief Scrutineer the Opposition list of Scrutineers to work during the House-to-House Registration. At the same time, in several areas, the PNC scrutineers are directing the chosen GECOM enumerators to homes of known PNC supporters and bypassing those of perceived PPP/C supporters.
This column gives acknowledgement of space for performance to the new GECOM Chairwoman Justice Claudette Singh, in light of the recent appointment and unenviable task of addressing all relevant matters and immediate priorities of the institution. However, the public view of GECOM itself emphasises the need for sanitation of its Secretariat as many of the operators within contaminates.
With a focus on holding of elections at the earliest date, the Honourable Chairwoman Justice Singh will have to address and remedy several priorities over time. Included is the fact that it is the Commission which has the sole responsibility to hire staff for GECOM and the abuse of the delegated approach drives the need for urgent review. It is very serious that deals relating to the procurement of the necessities/equipment for the House-to-House Registration were secretly worked out and manipulated at a public city hotel and bar, and invariance with the procurement laws. Reliable information regarding the already leaked details clearly exposed what and who was in the hotel and bar.
Further, the present House-to-House Registration is a farce, as the training for enumerators was inadequate. They all complained bitterly that the training received was without the ink kit and the cameras. The cheap cameras are not performing well resulting in a poor level of work. Enumerators are forced to repeat transactions several times and as a result, registrants are complaining that they do not have time to waste. Further, the cheap ink kit is causing serious fudging, and the enumerators are forced to return and repeat the taking of fingerprints.
Enumerators can be seen liming at shop corners for hours and speaking to friends because they are only interested in prolonging the work to stay on the job as long as possible. Enumerators are of the opinion that with poor work, they will have to be a longer period for remedial work and they will benefit financially. There is also evidence of enumerators taking registrants’ photos with their cell phone cameras. Many of the homes are bypassed by certain enumerators, which will suggest that they have an agenda of registering certain persons only.
A better system than this to pay an eighty thousand dollars tax-free monthly, was to pay the enumerators per transactions. Paying for the properly completed forms would have ensured quality work and the desperation to register everybody so both GECOM and the enumerators will benefit. Very laughable is the fact that the enumerators are asked to walk with cardboards to put as a backdrop when taking the registrants’ photographs.
One enumerator confessed that she was told to go to a certain house and do the transactions. The residents were reluctant to speak or give any information. All they do was to bring out their ‘brand new stiff birth certificate. These persons were not willing to sign their names and they said, “you go no sign”. It is a clear indication that these are people who are non-Guyanese and are not accustomed to the given name on the birth certificates. Enumerators are also worried about the risk of their contribution to working against the CCJ ruling which makes it clear that this House-to-House Registration is illegal.
The Honorable Chief Justice Roxane George will rule on the House-to-House challenges on August 14, 2019. While this nation awaits her ruling, tensions are getting sky high and people from all walks of life are talking about the arrogance of the APNU/AFC. More and more Guyanese are condemning the delaying and dodging of National and Regional Elections by the Government. It is clear that our people want to get out of all this uncertainty as instability looms over our country and the coalition Government continues with all manner of corruption.
It is significant that GECOM’s Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield, Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward and Legal Officer Excellence Dazzell, had all said after the passing of the No-Confidence Motion, that GECOM is ready for National and Regional Elections. The Chief Elections Officer only recently disclosed to the media that the currently expired voters’ list could be updated and cleansed to conduct credible elections by a Continuous Registration cycle followed by a Claims and Objections exercise, which would be used to include new registrants and delete the deceased. GECOM is ready for elections and it is imperative that they give the green light to the President for immediate elections.
This present House-to-House Registration is riddled with corruption, confusion, deregistration and ultimate disenfranchisement of many Guyanese. The current untrained enumerators are not competent enough to be efficient and should not be blamed. It is known that they did request a refresher training course, but they were catapulted into a process to justify corruption of prolonging and agony. The time is most opportune for all those in authority to uphold our Constitution!!