Stakeholders declare “smooth process” of Joint Services voting
…as PPP/C polling agent left stranded by GECOM
…unable to observe Mazaruni polling process
From the break of dawn, thousands of security officials from across the entire country began preparations to cast their votes for political leaders they believe should govern Guyana.
Ten days ahead of the General and Regional Elections, the members of the Joint Services on Friday turned out in large numbers at their various polling stations to exercise their franchise, in what was described as a “smooth process” by many.
At the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Base Camp Ayanganna, hundreds of soldiers flocked the various polling places located in the vast compound at the open of polls at 06:00h.
Among the first to cast their ballots was Chief-of-Staff Brigadier Patrick West, who noted that close to 3000 ranks will be voting at various camps countrywide.
“These soldiers are required to vote for the candidate of his or her choice,” Brigadier West told reporters who were on scene to observe the process.
According to the Army Chief, any political party can appeal for the vote of the Joint Services, but it will be up to the individual members to make their own choice.
His remarks come in light of appeals by the two main political parties which, on the eve of the Joint Services voting, pleaded their cases to this sector of electors.
“Anybody could appeal to any citizens, at the end of the day, we are all citizens of Guyana and we will all have those choices to make, now and in the future,” the Army Chief explained.
“I don’t see anything wrong with political leaders sharing from their platforms, their own intentions about what they will do for Guyana. People will have to judge based upon the history of their own lives and the desires of themselves and their families and for a better nation and make those correct decisions,” the Chief-of-Staff added.
Interestingly, President David Granger, who is seeking re-election at the upcoming polls, decked out in his party colour to observe the voting process of the Disciplined Services – a move which was criticised by a Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
At his first stop, the GDF Headquarters, the A Partnership for National Unity Leader stepped out of his vehicle clad in a bright green shirt – the colour associated with his political party.
GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn, who had also just arrived to observe the activities, remarked: “you look like you’re campaigning”.
In a subsequent interview with media operatives, President Granger was asked about his decision to wear a party colour to observe the voting of the Disciplined Services.
In response, the Presidential Candidate posited, “I have a lot of green shirts”. He had also stated that “I am a duly accredited agent” who is just there to observe the process.
Nonetheless, Commissioner Benn told reporters that it was inappropriate to wear a party colour since it can be perceived as campaigning and trying to influence the process.
Over at the Guyana Police Force’s headquarters, some 2000 ranks were slated to vote there, but countrywide, over 6000 officers exercised their franchise.
For the Guyana Prison Service, some 480 officers voted.
Those members of the Disciplined Services who did not get to vote today will be able to do so on March 2 – when the rest of the country will head to the polls.
Both Police Commissioner Leslie James and Prisons Director (ag) Gladwin Samuels, in brief interactions with the media, informed that the voting process went smoothly, timely, and efficiently, with no reports of hiccups.
The activities throughout the day were observed by various international observer missions including the European Union and the Carter Center.
Meanwhile, President Granger informed the media that he is satisfied with the arrangements made by GECOM to facilitate the voting on D-Day.
“I inquired about the process, first of all, I was told that it was opened on time, polling starting on time…there were no glitches,” he said, adding that it was a “smooth process”.
GECOM Chairperson Retired Justice Claudette Singh agreed. “We saw the opening of the polling station at the Police Officers Mess, the Training School and everything was going very smoothly,” she had told reporters during a visit at the Brickdam Police Station.
Presidential Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Dr Irfaan Ali also expressed that the process seemed to have progressed well throughout the day.
“Things seem to be going smoothly,” he too told reporters during a visit at the Brickdam Police Station in Georgetown.
However, there was one issue which the PPP/C Presidential Candidate raised. He explained that one of the party’s polling agents, who was supposed to join a flight with a GECOM team to head to Mazaruni to observe the voting process there, was turned away due to “no space” being available.
“So, we have a situation there where polling is taking place without our polling agent there after being ejected from the flight by the officials. They were supposed to make arraignments to take the polling agents,” Ali contended.
PPP/C’s Executive Secretary and Chief Elections Scrutineer Zulfikar Mustapha said he already wrote GECOM on this matter.