Luncheon to Surujbally: Prove GECOM’s readiness for elections

The Donald Ramotar administration yesterday called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to show proof that it is ready to host local or general elections.

“GECOM or Gegone? Cabinet’s contention is fairly simple. GECOM should provide a timely and a more exhaustive status report on its readiness and its preparedness for local government as well as general elections,” Head of the Presidential Secre-tariat Dr Roger Luncheon asserted at his post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday.

According to Luncheon, the administration holds firm to their belief that GECOM is not ready for either local government or general elections. The Commission has on multiple occasions stated that it is ready. “Put your money where your mouth is. The chairman’s word should be matched by evidence,” Luncheon stated. It is unclear what evidence the government is seeking. In the past, GECOM’s declaration of readiness has been good enough for the holding of general elections.

GECOM chairman Dr Steve Surujbally only last week dismissed a series of concerns raised by the three PPP/C appointed commissioners about the electoral body’s readiness for local government elections (LGE). In a lengthy response to the concerns raised by Mohamood Shaw, Dr Keshav Mangal and Athmaram Mangar, Surujbally said all that was necessary was for the Minister of Local Government to name a date for the LGE and this would trigger the phased rollout of GECOM’s six-month work plan including voter education.

The PPP/C government has come under intense pressure in recent months to call local government elections as there is no impediment in the way. However, the government and the ruling party have made a series of excuses which have been consistently rubbished by GECOM and other stakeholders. In light of GECOM’s previously enunciated position that it is ready, government’s adamant stance that the Commission is not ready is viewed by observers as them providing cover to their continued claim that LGE cannot be held.

Surujbally has reiterated many times that GECOM is “fully prepared and committed to move formally into an election mode with immediacy, if and when the Commission is mandated to conduct Local Government Elections.” In his latest statement, he said that he hoped that the response to the concerns raised “would put to rest all of the public innuendoes, speculations and misconceptions.”

The GECOM chairman had also informed that the body will be undertaking a Claims and Objections exercise next month to produce an Official List of Electors as a sequel to the 6th Cycle of Continuous Registration. Surujbally said that the parliamentary political parties have been informed of this exercise via a letter dated June 9, 2014. This exercise will provide the opportunity for all persons who have changed their addresses since registration to apply for transfers.

Luncheon yesterday, stated that his government is concerned about the current Claims and Objections period which is from August 4 to 31, 2014 and has a list validity date up to October 2014. He said that government sees that as limiting them to a specified period in which to call elections. “That list that is based on that qualifying date is not a list for all time. Indeed, it is a list that can only be used if an elections were called within the period of its validity and we understand that is three months,” he said.

“It is marginalizing the constitutional role of the President in making that declaration for general election so what Cabinet is sensing, unless otherwise advised, there can be something sinister about this approach,” he added.

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