Ominous Signs: GECOM database, Ministries of Citizenship & Social Cohesion

Dear Editor,
The General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) at a press conference on July 18, had expressed great concerns about the steps being taken by GECOM to share its database with the Ministry of Education and Social Security. He sounded the warning that there is more in the mortar than the pestle.
His fears are not unfounded.
There is absolutely no justification for sharing the database. The excuse of placing children in schools closest to them does not hold water. If the authorities responsible for placement have reasons to question a parent’s/child’s address, they could do like the banks and ask for proof of address, which can include utility bills (electricity, water, telephone). They do not have to have GECOM’s database to do this.
Indeed, this is very strange for in the past GECOM refused to assist the Ministry of Home Affairs in relation to a request to assist in fighting crimes and identifying criminals. That is considered to be far more justified than checking addresses of children. Yet GECOM never co-operated.
In the July 21 issue of the media, a letter by Mr Alexander was published in response to Mr Rohee’s letter to GECOM and the public concerns he raised. In it, he stated…”not to mention that the said information and more is accessible online….”
Why request this from GECOM if this is so?
Since 1992 the security of the data and the vote has been seriously reduced. These measures are further undermining the security of the vote. From all the actions and statements by top officials of GECOM one could be justified in fearing that some have been compromised. Their hostility to the PPP/C is a reflection of this.
The PPP’s General Secretary pointed to the contempt being showed by the Chairman of GECOM to legitimate requests made by the PPP for answers to questions posed to him. Dr Surujbally had promised to reply in writing, but the PPP’s General Secretary said the Chairman had changed his mind and has since refused. Most worrying, GECOM should want to appear to be fair and unbiased, but this is now lost. It is giving the PNC/APNU all it wants.
With many questions about the last elections still unanswered, with the efforts being made to delay the hearing of the Elections Petition Case, and with a heavily militarized regime in place; it is clear that all democratically minded and peace loving Guyanese must be concerned.
However, those concerns, serious as they are, are not the only ones. Two of the Ministries created by the regime when it came to office fourteen months ago raise suspicions as to their real purpose. These are the Ministry of Citizenship and the Ministry of Social Cohesion.
The Ministry of Citizenship has been functioning very quietly. No reports about how many new birth certificates have been issued over this period. No reports as it relates to how many persons have been granted citizenship here and where those persons originate from. These types of information are not readily available.
During the consideration of the estimates of the 2011 budget, Mr Felix, in explaining sums voted, said it was to import hundreds of thousands of birth certificate forms.
Where are these forms? How have they been distributed? The only reason coming to mind is that the PNC/APNU does not head the Ministry of Public Security, formerly the Ministry of Home Affairs, but they want to control areas of Citizenship, birth certificates, etc.
They want their man to be in charge of these functions, a former Commissioner of Police at that, whose views on what he will do to help the PNC is well known. Recall the recording by Roger Khan of the conversation with Mr Felix, then Commissioner of Police and Basil Williams, Chairman of the PNC. In that conversation, Williams was thanking Mr Felix for turning the attention away from PNC links to the criminal gangs.
That Ministry’s function can impact on National Elections. It therefore needs to stop functioning in the dark. The public has a right to know what is happening. I recall also that they have removed the head of the Birth Certificate area, Ms McDonald, a woman who worked professionally. This raised more fears as to their real intentions.
The other Ministry is the Ministry of Social Cohesion. That seems to have been set up to throw dust into people’s eyes.
Obviously the APNU/AFC regime has no intention in promoting national cohesion.
If they had any real interest in national cohesion they would not have carried out the mass dismissal of Indo-Guyanese and others whom they feel are sympathetic to the PPP/C. How can anyone promote social cohesion, while victimizing and discrimination are happening in such a blatant and open way?
Just from the few reports that find their way in the media, we see that this Ministry seems focused on disproportionately satisfying the needs of the communities. Most of its resources appear to be going into those communities where the APNU is strong and won most of it’s votes. Hardly anything flows to areas where the opposition is strong.
Clear discrimination.
Those two Ministries are also under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Presidency. They are heavily politicised and designed not to help the Guyanese people in general, but the PNC/APNU primarily.
These are very ominous signs. These matters and the observation of the PPP’s General Secretary must be examined closely to prevent the PNC/APNU from rigging future elections and manipulating public opinion. That will only drive our country backward.

Donald Ramotar
Former President