Jagdeo calls out Govt GECOM Commissioner for spreading misinformation
…says CJ never said GECOM must use data generated from H2H for verification
Speaking at his press conference on Thursday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo responded to a number of inaccurate statements made by Government-nominated Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Vincent Alexander.
In an invited comment to the State-owned Guyana Chronicle, published on Thursday under the headline “No decision on way forward”, Alexander is reported to have said that Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, in her ruling on the challenge to House-to-House Registration, stated that the House-to-House Registration should be used for verification, rather than for a deletion of names from the list.
This was disputed by Jagdeo, who pointed out that the Chief Justice never said that GECOM must use data generated from the House-to-House Registration exercise for verification, and he quoted paragraph 178 of her ruling to support this.
Paragraph 178 of the Chief Justice’s ruling says: “Thus, whatever verification or revision exercise is undertaken to ensure a fair and credible election, whether house-to-house or otherwise, for the preparation of the list of electors for national and regional elections consequent on the NCM, must be conducted in the context of the order of the CCJ of July 12, 2019, that the provisions of Art 106 immediately became engaged on the passage of the NCM on December 21, 2018. This means that the election should have been held on March 21, 2019, that is within 3 months of the passage of the NCM or such extended date as approved by two-thirds of all the members of the National Assembly”.
Further, he explained that paragraph 128 of the ruling deals with how the House-to-House exercise can be used to verify a first-time registrant – not to de-register persons that are already on the National Register of Registrant.
Jagdeo was also critical of the Guyana Chronicle, which he accused of peddling falsehoods, when in a section of the same article it was stated that, “House-to-House Registration is a new registration exercise, and all eligible persons must register, even if they were previously registered, the elections management body stated. Upon conclusion of this exercise, a new National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB), which is reflective of the current Guyanese population, will be created”.
The Opposition Leader quoted three paragraphs of the Chief Justice’s ruling that point to the unconstitutional nature of a House-to-House Registration exercise to remove the names of persons from the NRR if they are already registered.
These are paragraphs 141, 161 & 174:
Paragraph 141 states that: “A reading of all the relevant provisions leads to the inevitable and ineluctable conclusion that GECOM does not have the discretion without more to remove the name of a person from the list of registrants or electors because such a person who was previously registered has not re-registered during a house to house registration exercise”.
Paragraph 161 states that: “GECOM would have no legal authority to remove or de-register such persons who are otherwise qualified unless such registration can be cancelled…these persons may have to return to their districts to vote, but their names cannot ipso facto be removed from the register of registrants, which removal would then disqualify them from and deprive them of their right to vote. To do so would be unconstitutional and therefore illegal”.
Paragraph 174 states that: “This is to say, where persons are already registered, it would be unconstitutional if they are removed for the sole reason that they now reside in another jurisdiction or as I have pointed out, another part of the country vis-à-vis where they reside as regards their place or district of registration in Guyana where they would be able to vote.
The same would apply if it is that they are simply not present for whatever reason when the registration officer or enumerator visited or visits. Once they fulfil the criteria in art 159(2) and are already registered, they are entitled to remain so unless it is proven that they are deceased or have become disqualified or that art 159 (3) or (4) applies”.
Further, Jagdeo concluded that since the House-to-House Registration, with the intention of creating a new database will be unconstitutional, the exercise must be immediately halted and that GECOM has to go to the time-tested and non-controversial method that served to refresh the List of Voters for the last four elections – that is, a Claims and Objections period.
The Opposition Leader also cautioned against using data from the 270,000 persons GECOM claims to have registered, since no one knows how many are first-time registrants and it will take months to find that out. Jagdeo added that the data obtained will be suspect since the process was not scrutinised by the Opposition and may very well have been illegally obtained since the statutory forms were not used.
He stressed that with Claims and Objections, new registrants will have an opportunity to register as first-time voters, among the other transactions that such an exercise allows.
On the subject of timelines, the Opposition Leader said that he has seen a proposal from the three Opposition-nominated Commissioners which indicate that elections can be held by late October.
He also said that before the appointment of current Chairperson, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, proposals for the holding of elections had always coincided with those publicly stated by Congress Place. As such, he urged that any new timeline put forward by the Secretariat must be thoroughly scrutinised by the new Chairperson as it may be bloated.