Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Retired Justice James Patterson has been accused of muzzling Commissioners of the People’s Progressive Party.
At Tuesday’s statutory meeting, PPP Commissioners, Robson Benn, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick walked out of the meeting after Patterson refused to allow Benn to make remarks at the beginning of the meeting which was held at GECOM’s High Street, Kingston, Georgetown office.
Speaking with Guyana Times after walking out of the meeting, Commissioner Benn expressed dissatisfaction with the operations of the Commission. He stated that among the issues he intended to raise during the intervening period were the Ethnic Relations Commission’s (ERC) report and a legal letter against GECOM among other matters.
“It has been two weeks since a full meeting has taken place and we were still not allowed to say anything,” Benn remarked.
“We have a democratic right to make comments at the beginning of the meeting and there is clear intention to have us not so do,” he added.
At the previous meeting held on March 12, the three PPP Commissioners walked out after realising that the matters on the agenda for the statutory meeting had nothing to do with Regional and General Elections but rather, house-to-house registration.
PPP Commissioner Sase Gunraj had told the media that the house-to-house registration is a policy that was taken from time to time by GECOM while the requirement to hold general elections is mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.
He had noted that he along with the other PPP Commissioners, could not “sit there and suborn the violation of the Constitution” by engaging in any discussion that does not countenance the holding of elections in the constitutionally-mandated timeline.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Benn had said that he requested that GECOM cease and desist from undertakings relating to house-to-house registration and to take account of the constitutional imperatives based on the no-confidence motion passed in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018.
The PPP Commissioners have maintained that the only way of “going forward” would be to have all Commissioners at GECOM commence discussions on the pressing issue of Regional and General Elections in Guyana as is constitutionally mandated.
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) against the Government succeeded when former AFC Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
GECOM Commissioners, including the Chair, have been advocating for house-to-house registration to sanitise the voters’ list. On Monday, GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward, in an invited comment said that the necessary training for election officials has begun in several areas across the country in a bid to hold house-to-house registration.
“The Secretariat has commenced its preparations for the conduct of house-to-house registration and so I think it was the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of March training for the trainers commenced. Subsequently, there was the training in Georgetown I think at 16 locations on the weekend of the 30th and 31st [of March] and of as at yesterday [Sunday] training continued on the East Coast and on the East Bank [of Demerara],” Ward explained.
She said that once the training has concluded, a proposal has been made for the house-to-house registration to commence in June.
Since the passage of the no-confidence resolution, GECOM has been accused of dragging its feet with respect to elections preparation.