A new national identification (ID) card was not included in the agreements signed by political parties on June 14, 2007 and so there was no consideration for additional funds, according to Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira but Opposition Leader Robert Corbin has a different view.
Corbin has raised this matter with President Bharrat Jagdeo as he feels the government appears to be reneging on the agreements made in the diplomatic community.
“That political decision made,” Corbin told Stabroek News yesterday “it is for the professional judgment of the (elections) commission to determine the method by which they would conduct the house-to-house registration.”
In a letter to Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr Steve Surujbally, dated October 16, Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira said that apart from the issue of the IDs not being included in the agreements, the issue was not a subject of discussion between the political parties prior to the signing of the agreements or since.
Teixeira reiterated that in a meeting which included Surujbally and three others, the GECOM Chairman was aware of government’s position in relation to the introduction of new ID cards as part of the national house-to-house registration exercise.
Reiterating what she said at the October 8, 2007 meeting and the government’s position, “which you are very cognizant of having been advised previously at the highest forum” that the government was “committed to local government elections being held in 2008.”
Secondly, she said, that “both the multi-party and tri-partite agreements signed by the political parties on June 4, 2007 did not include the issue of the introduction of a new national identification card, nor, has that issue prior to, or, since, been the subject of discussion between the said political parties.”
Expressing the hope that she had clarified the issue, Teixeira said that she believed “that this new proposal has no locus standi at the political level and consequentially no consideration for its inclusion in relation to additional budgetary expenditure.”
In Teixeira’s response to Surujbally, she said that she was not seeking a justification for an intervention for new ID cards but rather sought substantiation in writing that the issue was a decision taken by the GECOM commissioners.
Surujbally in a letter to Teixeira justifying why funding was necessary for new ID cards to be done during the house-to-house registration due to begin early next month, said that, “as a matter of policy, the decision pertaining to a new ID card production exercise was never an issue at secretariat or commission levels, as has been well documented and confirmed in the minutes of 181st,
185th and 186th statutory meetings.”
Asked to comment on this development, Corbin told this newspaper that from the standpoint of the PNCR the issue of ID cards is an integral process of any new registration exercise. He said, “I can’t see the old ID cards which are linked to the old data, which would be discarded being even considered as being appropriate to be kept in circulation.”
Corbin said that he has raised this issue with the President and he has also spoken with the leaders of GAP/ROAR, Paul Hardy and AFC, Raphael Trotman.
He said that they are to meet later this week to discuss this new development.
In the justification for new national ID cards, which would cost about $235.3 million for some 600,000 registrants, GECOM said that the upcoming house-to-house registration exercise would yield new individual numbers associated with each registrant which would not correspond with those currently in the present MRCs/database.
GECOM has said that to have two sets of numbers associated with the same person would lead to chaos and the thought of this is currently creating great consternation and a sense of horror in the Information Technology Division of GECOM.
GECOM feels that since the registration exercise was going to be the most definitive undertaking, it makes patent sense not only to do everything correctly but to ensure that all components have a fresh and simultaneous beginning.
“One should not give potential obfuscators a chance to ply their trade,” stated one of GECOM’s reasons for the production of ID cards.
GECOM feels that were it to produce ID cards at some later date, for example 2009 or 2010, it would mean doing over the whole exercise, that is photographing registrants faces all over again – with the concomitant costs which would have increased by 2009 or 2010.
It is proposed that the new ID cards be produced in colour, bringing Guyana in sync with the rest of the Caribbean and with modernity, would cost US$2 each during the house-to-house registration.