Parliamentary opposition believes new IDs were always on the cards

The joint parliamentary opposition parties believe that the production of new national identification cards was part of the agreement they signed in June and are in agreement with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that new ones must be produced during the upcoming house-to-house registration exercise.

When contacted on whether the AFC was for, or, against the production of new national ID cards, party Leader Raphael Trotman told Stabroek News that when he learnt that the government had not considered additional funds for the production of new ID cards because it was not specifically mentioned in the agreements signed for the conduct of house-to-house registration, he immediately e-mailed the Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin on the issue last Friday.

Having had no reply, Trotman said that on Tuesday, he once again e-mailed Corbin on the issue and copied it to head of the GAP-ROAR list, Paul Hardy, pointing to the need for joint consultation on the issue.

Corbin has since made contact with both leaders and they have all indicated that they would meet at the earliest convenient time during the week to take a joint position on the issue.

Trotman said that the AFC cannot accept the argument that it is based on economics given that money is being spent from the Lotto funds for many projects. “Funds are found by the government when it needs to find it to suit its purpose,” he said.

The sum of $235.3 million is required to enable De La Rue Identity Systems, the company with which GECOM is negotiating, to produce some 600,000 new ID cards.

In addition, Trotman said that if the funds cannot be found it would not hurt to ask the donor community to assist in this last house-to-house registration exercise to do away with any issue that could cause concern over a completely new voters’ data base.

When the agreements were signed, Trotman said, he did not see this issue coming up since it was the AFC’s understanding that the whole process was to wipe away the old slate and have a completely new data base.

The idea, he said, was to get rid of “padded lists, irregular lists, so I can’t see how old ID cards fit into this matrix.”

Contacted on the issue, Hardy told Stabroek News that he hopes the government reconsiders its position that the issue has no “locus standi at the political level and consequentially no consideration for its inclusion in relation to additional budgetary expenditure.”

He said it would be a lost opportunity not to have the ID cards produced during this house-to-house registration and would cost extra at a later date. He said that President Bharrat Jagdeo, himself being an economist would know that it makes economic sense to get that ID cards over and done with during the upcoming house-to-house registration. “It would be the right message for the country,” he said.

He said that last week he met with Trotman and they agreed that the AFC Leader would make contact with Corbin to deal with the issue at the level of the joint parliamentary opposition as soon as possible.

Hardy, like Trotman and Corbin, said that when the agreement was signed, it was believed that the production of new ID cards was part of the exercise even though there was no specific mention of it. “We are tired of unnecessary obstacles,” he said adding, “We need to move forward.”

Contacted on Tuesday, Corbin told Stabroek News that once the political decision was made he expected that GECOM would use its professional judgment to determine the method by which they would conduct the house-to-house registration.

Issue raised with President

Corbin said that he had raised the issue with President Jagdeo earlier this week during consultations with him on other issues and he was also due to meet with the leaders of the other parliamentary opposition parties. The PNCR Leader said that he could not see the old ID cards, which are linked to the old data, being considered as appropriate to be kept in circulation.

In a letter dated October 16 to GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, 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.

She said that Surujbally was aware that the government was committed to holding local government elections next year; and 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.”

On Surujbally’s request for funding of the production of new ID cards, she said that she believed that the proposal “has no locus standi at the political level and consequentially, no consideration for its inclusion in relation to additional budgetary expenditure.”

She said 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 had earlier said that the decision to produce new ID cards was never an issue at secretariat or commission levels. These were documented in the minutes of the 181st, 185th and 186th statutory meetings.

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