Every single week, for two to four days, President Irfaan Ali is out meeting the citizens, talking development with the people of the country. It is just about 30 months since he became President. In that time, he has visited every region in Guyana. He has visited every sub-region of Guyana. There is not a single community in our country that has not benefitted from Government programmes. At the pace President Ali is going, he will probably be the first ever President of any country to have visited every community in the country. He has been patient, even in instances when a small number of persons have chosen to voice the false narrative of political leaders like Aubrey Norton. But nothing deters President Ali.
There is visible enthusiasm among citizens, people feeling that their Government has a genuine interest in their welfare. The style of engaging people directly is driving desperation among political parties in the face of imminent Local Government Elections. They know that the President’s party is not only consolidating its support in its traditional strongholds, but that President Ali is genuinely touching people’s hearts. He has made people believe in his ONE GUYANA message. For that reason, in municipalities like Georgetown, Linden, new Amsterdam and Bartica, which are municipalities controlled by the PNC, there is, among PNC leaders, angst that they might have a fight on their hands for holding on to those municipalities. Even in NDCs like Fyrish and Dartmouth, the PNC are worried that the PPP might fetch away enough seats to weaken their control.
In two weeks, it would be Nomination Day for LGE 2023. The actual LGE 2023 will be held on March 13, 2023. The AFC have announced that they would not contest; we know why. Several small parties or one-man or one-woman parties have also decided to be bystanders. None of these parties has the courage to tell the truth. All of them know that they would be embarrassed at LGE 2023, when the results show that they could not even muster a handful of votes. They therefore have to invent an excuse for deciding to be bystanders. The excuse is an old one – the Voters’ List. They all claim that the Voters’ List is bloated. They claim that the Voters’ List includes persons who have died, and also persons who no longer live in Guyana. No one in Guyana doubts that the Voters’ List includes dead people and persons who no longer live in Guyana, but every name on the Voters’ List was registered during a process in which all political parties were stakeholders, and in which each party had actively participated. Some were registered during a house-to-house registration process, and some were registered during a continuous registration process. Whether it was during a house-to-house registration process or during a continuous registration process, all political parties in Parliament were present. They all had paid scrutineers who ensured that only persons physically present were able to register. In fact, GECOM staff, accompanied by the parties’ scrutineers, had visited the addresses to verify that persons lived at the addresses they had given. No dead person could have registered, and no person who was not present in Guyana could have registered.
However, people who might have registered to be included in the National Register of Registrants (NRR) do die or do migrate. Even if a new house-to-house registration is done tomorrow, the very next day, names of persons who would have died or who might have migrated would be on that list. Are we therefore prepared to do a new list every day? The fact is that the names of dead people are removed by a constitutional process. What the country needs to do is to ensure that the legal process of removing names of dead people is made more efficient. In terms of persons who have migrated, their names cannot be removed. There are several reasons, and some very experienced persons, like Ralph Ramkarran, have explained why. One of the things we must bear in mind is that Guyana has a law that permits dual citizenship. How, therefore, can anyone deny persons of Guyanese citizenship the right to be included in the Voters’ List? Once a person’s name is included in the list through a legal process, that name remains there until that person dies.
The truth is that the Voters’ Lists in the vast majority of countries include dead people and people who no longer live in their own country. More than a hundred countries around the world have a continuous voters’ registration process. Anyone who has voted in Guyana since 1992 knows that it is virtually impossible for anyone to vote for someone else, outside of those who would have been granted permission for a proxy vote. Persons given that permission are scrutinised by all political parties in Guyana. It follows, then, that no other person can vote for those who have died. Similarly, since Guyana only has in-person voting, no one who is not physically present can vote. Those who are using the fact that the names of persons who have died are still on the list as an excuse to not participate in LGE are simply inventing a reason to not subject themselves to the humiliation of not even garnering a handful of votes. The AFC are one of those parties. The PNC wish there is a way to stay out too.