GECOM meets with Private Sector on poll concerns

Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally has given a commitment to be receptive to requests to meet with key stakeholders to discuss pertinent matters associated with the successful conduct of this year’s general elections.

This assurance was given during a meeting between GECOM and a team of representatives from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Tuesday in the Commission’s Boardroom, a GECOM press release said.

The PSC had requested the meeting to discuss several areas of concern which had been raised during prior meetings between the PSC and some of the political parties in parliament.

According to GECOM, foremost among the concerns were persons who were unable to apply for registration because they were not in possession of the required source documents, undelivered National Identification Cards, revival of the Code of Conduct for political parties with regards to the 2011 General and Regional Elections, and the independence of GECOM.

In addition other concerns were foreign Observer Missions being invited to monitor the elections, resuscitation of the GECOM media Monitoring Unit (MMU), and the intention of the PSC to be accredited as a Local Observer of the upcoming elections.

Responding to the issues raised by the PSC, Dr. Surujbally explained that GECOM had documented during the 2008 House-to-House Registration exercise the particulars of approximately 38,000 persons who could not apply for registration because they were not in possession of the required source documents.

This information had been shared with the General Register Office and the political parties in parliament, with the request that they take all possible action to ensure that the concerned persons could apply for registration. Moreover, GECOM had sought and participated at meetings involving key stakeholders including the Registrar General to place emphasis on the need for the situation to be addressed. However, the Registrar General was adamant that her office was treating efficiently with applications for registration, but that birth certificates cannot be issued to persons whose births were not registered, nor can birth certificates be issued to persons who have not applied, the release stated.

GECOM noted that it had assisted in the distribution of birth certificate application forms in the hinterland communities for persons to apply for the document. In many instances GECOM staff paid the fees associated with applications for birth certificates from their own pockets.

Meanwhile, GECOM had emphasized since before the implementation of Continuous Registration in 2005 and prior to and during every subsequent registration exercise that all persons were eligible for registration, but who were not in possession of the relevant supporting document(s) must take immediate steps to acquire the said documents in order for them to apply for registration. GECOM emphasized that they have been pleading for the persons to get their source documents for almost six years now.

Uncollected ID cards

With respect to undelivered National Identification cards, the statistics reveal that as at June 11, 2011, GECOM still had in its possession 29,570 ID cards produced from the 2008 House-to-House Registration exercise, 1,613 from the Claims and Objections Exercise for Local Government Elections, 9,946 from the 2nd Cycle of Continuous Registration, and 2,058 cards prepared as a result of applications for corrections/changes and replacements.

This represents a total of 43,187 ID cards still in GECOM’s possession as at June 11.

GECOM had broadened the distribution of ID cards by making them available to be uplifted from all of the Temporary Registration Offices across Guyana which were established to facilitate the conduct of the just-concluded Claims and Objections exercise. And this wide distribution network will remain in place until the end of this month at which time the Temporary Offices will be closed, the exercise having been concluded, the release added.  Thereafter, persons will be required to visit the respective Permanent Registration Offices (27 nationwide) to uplift their cards which GECOM will continue to distribute during official working hours.

Further, the release said, being cognizant that registrants who live in far flung communities in Districts 1, 7, 8 and 9 do not have the means to visit the respective Registration Offices, the Commission gave approval for the conduct of a special exercise to distribute ID cards in those areas through the use of mobile distribution teams including scrutineers.

Surujbally noted that the Commission will continue in its quest to deliver as many of the remaining ID cards as possible before Election Day, and invited the PSC to help in this regard.

The release noted that revival of the Code of Conduct for political parties regarding the 2011 General and Regional Elections is an issue that is currently engaging the attention of Chief Election Officer Gocool Boodoo.

Surujbally noted too that the independence of GECOM was never compromised and the Commission’s work is carried out in keeping with the Oaths of Office which were taken by its members. He said further that the government has indicated that it intends to invite observers from organisations outside of Guyana. There are also provisions for the accreditation of local observers such as the PSC, who would have to operate within the parameters of relevant Rules of Procedures.

In the meantime, Surujbally has already written Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon advocating that the reassembling of the MMU be given priority consideration.

Dookhoo assured that the meeting represented an indication of the PSC’s desire to contribute to the successful conduct of the upcoming elections in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.

Noting that GECOM appreciated the objective of the PSC, and viewed the initiative as “a partnership with the Commission”, Surujbally emphasized that the continuation of this consultative approach is a crucial element in the maintenance of stakeholder confidence in GECOM’s capacity to manage the upcoming elections in a free fair and transparent manner.

Gouveia underscored his belief in the independence of GECOM, while Dookhoo pledged that the PSC will continue to focus its attention on matters of national interest   in contributing to the successful conduct to the 2011 polls.

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