Local Govt Elections 2023: Smooth flow as Joint Services cast ballots
Countrywide, ranks of the Disciplined Services turned up across polling stations on Friday to cast their ballots in the customary early fashion for Local Government Elections 2023.
A combined total of 9093 ranks were eligible to vote from the Guyana Police Force (GPF), Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) and the Guyana Prison Service (GPS).
From the strike of 06:00h, the ranks waited in line until it was their turn to exercise their franchise and from all indications, it was a smooth process.
Just after he voted at the Police Officers’ Mess Annex, acting Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken underscored that senior ranks were leading by example, by showing up early to vote so that they could return to policing. Over 5700 ranks from the Guyana Police Force were expected to vote.
“Across all the regions, we’re leading by example. All the Commanders are leading by example and I think we’re going to have a smooth flow. We started early because we’re disciplined people and we want to get back to our normal work.”
Meanwhile, officers of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) voted at five polling stations across the prison locations.
Director of Prisons, Nicklon Elliot voted at the Camp Street Prison location where he informed that 493 ranks of the Prison Service were eligible to vote. Of that amount, 63 were not required to cast their vote since there is only one approved list of candidates in the Local Authority Areas (LAAs) for those ranks.
“Each prison officer is required to vote for the candidate of his/her choice,” he stated.
The Prison Head noted that every election is critical and ensuring a smooth process is of utmost importance.
Several GECOM officials, including Chair of GECOM, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh observed the voting at the Camp Street location.
Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan informed the media after he voted at Base Camp Ayanganna that their voting population is 2799 ranks.
“The uniqueness of the military and the Joint Services is that we have ranks dispositioned across many locations. I believe it’s 23 polling locations we have so far and the reports coming in are that voting has been smooth.”
In far-flung areas such as New River Triangle, Khan shared that GECOM officials and party representatives were taken via an aircraft.
“In some Local Authority Areas, there is no contesting so soldiers will also not be voting based on that,” the Chief of Staff indicated.
Chairperson of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh spoke on the sidelines of these activities, where she expressed her satisfaction with the process despite indicating that it was slower than anticipated. The GECOM Chair also informed that all systems are in place for the holding of LGE 2023 on June 12, 2023.
“I am satisfied with what is going on right now and how they’re moving. It takes time but they’re getting there…All systems are in place now but Commissioners have a way of raising issues and those will be dealt with in due course.”
Over in Essequibo, approximately 200 officers were expected to vote – 120 registered at Anna Regina, 5 at Suddie and about 20 at Charity.
Regional Commander, Superintendent Khemraj Shivbaran described the voting process as a smooth one with no hiccups recorded. He informed that there were no complaints from Police ranks.
Ballots used for voting were arranged and enveloped under the supervision of GECOM personnel; and witnessed by agents of the contesting political parties, voluntary groups, or individual candidates.
In Berbice, early data from polling stations in both Regions Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), indicate a very low voter turnout. At about midday, only about 25 per cent of the 685 officers s from the two regions had cast their ballots.
In Region Five, 173 Police officers were subjected to vote at two locations. At Mahaica Police Station, one-third of the voting population had showed up by midday, and the same reflected at Fort Wellington Police Station.
In Region Six, 422 Police officers, 80 prison officers and 11 GDF officers were expected to vote in four locations. For Whim, less than 15 per cent of the 23 Police officers who were listed to vote had done so.
Low turnout was also reported at Springlands Police Station and New Amsterdam Prison.
Regional Police Commander, Senior Superintendent Shivpersaud Bacchus also reported that the morning session was hiccup-free.
Meanwhile, officers who were expected to but did not cast a ballot on Friday will be able to do so on June 12. However, those ranks will have to go to their respective constituencies where their polling stations are located.
The ballots cast by members of the Disciplined Forces will be sorted by local authorities and constituencies, dispatched to the respective returning officers, and mixed with other ballots that will be cast by civilians on June 12, 2023.
GECOM had announced that the Disciplined Services would vote on June 2, in keeping with Sections 74A and 74I of the Local Authorities (Amendment) Act. Voting for the Disciplined Services is traditionally held separately from the general population because the Disciplined Services will have their hands full ensuring law and order is maintained when the general population votes. (G12)