Opposition will not recognise illegal voters’ list
…as GECOM CEO chooses which advice from legal officer to follow
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made their position clear, that they will not recognise any voters’ list arising from the present illegal House-to-House Registration being carried out since it is likely to disenfranchise thousands of Guyanese.
This was communicated by the party on Monday, whereby they slammed the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for embarking on the exercise and urged Guyanese, particularly their supporters, not to support the activity.
The party made it pellucid that its leadership met on Monday and decided that to participate in the Guyana Elections Commission’s illegal national House-to-House Registration will make it complicit in aiding and abetting the violation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) June 18, 2019, rulings and July 12, 2019, consequential orders, which upheld the Guyana Constitution.
The party reminded that in the rulings and consequential orders, the CCJ had stressed the need for elections to have been held since March 21, 2019. It was also pointed out that the CCJ had stressed the responsibility GECOM has to adhere to the Constitution.
“The PPP, therefore, shall not participate in this illegal unilateral activity by the Chief Elections Officer which threatens peace and stability in the country and undermines constitutional rule. The Chief Elections Officer has embarked on a House-to-House Registration in defiance of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the apex court of Guyana, and, even in defiance of the advice of GECOM’s internal legal officer, at a time when there is no functioning Commission in place. He must be stopped,” the party said in a statement.
According to the PPP, the approach to the court to bring an injunction to stop the national House-to-House Registration is one stage of the struggle to ensure that constitutional rule is preserved. “The PPP is convinced that this House-to-House exercise is intended to deliberately de-register thousands of Guyanese voters. The objective is to delay elections to facilitate the APNU/AFC Government remaining in office illegally after September 18th 2019.”
Instead of House-to-House Registration, a process which GECOM’s lawyer Stanley Marcus told the CCJ would take until Christmas, the PPP insisted that the electoral agency commence the Claims and Objections period. The party made it clear it would not recognise the validity of the voters’ list produced during House-to-House Registration, a development which would mean the party might not recognise elections held with the list.
“The People’s Progressive Party urges Guyanese not to support this illegal exercise and calls on all political parties, civil society and other stakeholders, including the international community, to condemn this unconstitutional act,” the party added.
On Sunday Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Gerry Gouveia in a strongly worded letter had upbraided GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield for proceeding with House-to-House Registration when the Constitution and CCJ rulings require elections in three months.
Lowenfield has since responded to the letter, attempting to justify the exercise by citing advise provided by GECOM’s Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzell. According to Lowenfield, upon his request, Dazzell advised him that he could act based on an order from former Chairman James Patterson because it was issued before the CCJ ruled and invalidated his appointment.
Patterson’s order to commence House-to-House Registration was dated June 11, 2019. Subsequently, the CCJ ruled on June 18 that he was unconstitutionally appointed by the President. Patterson subsequently resigned on July 8 and according to Lowenfield, Dazzell advised him that any actions Patterson took before June 18 was valid since he operated on the premise that his appointment was bona fide.
But in May, GECOM’s own Legal Officer had advised the Commission that subject to Section 7 (1) of the Elections Amendment Act (2000), there was no need for House-to-House Registration and a new list but rather, the old voters’ list could and should be updated.
Section 7 (1) of the Elections Amendment Act states “Where there is an interval of more than six months after the qualifying date …. the Commissioner shall cause the Official List of Electors and non-resident electors’ roll to be revised, in accordance with procedure established by the Commission by regulations – (a) by adding thereto the names of persons who have or may become qualified electors for registration as after the said qualifying date and before the day appointed for the election; and (b) by deleting therefrom the names of persons who are registered as electors, but have ceased to be qualified to be so registered after the said qualifying date and before such date, being a date prior to the date appointed for the election, as may be specified by the Commission by notification in the Gazette”.
The opinion, expressed by Dazzell, stated that: “The use of the word ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggest that the process is not one where a ‘new’ list is generated, but one where the most recent list is updated or amended….I, therefore, advise that procedures be put in place to ensure the revision of the list, otherwise, the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice a by-election that may become necessary”.
Dazzell’s advice was never followed by GECOM or the CEO, with particular Government-nominated Commissioners going on to criticise her after she would have discharged her duties of offering legal advice.
The result has been that millions have been spent to prepare for House-to-House Registration, an exercise that the PPP has said could see elections being held until next year. The registration exercise started on Saturday.