The PPP has written to the Guyana Elections Com-mission (GECOM) requesting that it considers some measure to facilitate the registration of eligible persons who have not yet done so.
However, both the PNCR and the AFC, who had previously raised concerns on this matter, questioned the timing of this move and queried why the governing party had not moved on the issue earlier.
Speaking at a press conference at Freedom House yesterday, the party’s General Secretary and presidential candidate Donald Ramotar said that the PPP is now looking to meet with GECOM to work out a mechanism. “I think it is in the interest of all the stakeholders in this process to explore all the possibilities and with minimum of delay to have these elections. Ramotar said. “And I know that GECOM, I mean the whole history of GECOM, that they have always done their best to try to facilitate legitimate persons to have an opportunity to exercise their franchise,” he added
This decision, Ramotar said, came after the situation was assessed. “Yesterday, we had a review with our main organizers across the country. What we have found is similar to what the opposition parties reported,” Ramotar said.
Ramotar said that the party has discovered that many people both in the interior and on the coast could not have been registered because they were not able to get their source documents. He said that in some cases, persons received their birth certificates after the period of claims was over. The Claims and Objections period ended earlier this month.
He admitted that part of the problem is that too many persons waited for the “last minute” to conduct their business and he pointed to the fact that in the month of Claims and Objections close to 17,000 persons were registered.
Ramotar said though that should GECOM accede to the request of the party, there may be some delay in the holding of elections but not for any significant period of time. “Talking to my experts, who I have been working with here, I don’t expect it to be pushed back to for any significant period of time,” he said. “Some of my people feel it could be done fairly quickly.
And so we will explore it with GECOM to see what possibility exists in that regard,” he added.
However, a GECOM official told this newspaper that while GECOM, after consultations with the contesting political parties, could opt to hold a new Claims and Objections exercise, it would likely affect the timetable for preparations for the elections, which are legally due by December 28.
Following a meeting with the Private Sector Commission (PSC) this week, where concerns about persons who were unable to register were raised, GECOM noted that given its intervention on the issue so far, the Commission concluded and agreed that, regardless of the cut off point, there would always be persons without source documents.
Accordingly, it said GCEOM took the unanimous that an extension of the period for Claims and Objections was not warranted.
When contacted late yesterday afternoon, Ramotar said that the party does not have any specific measure in mind but believes that there must be some option that could be exercised by GECOM.
He said that the party is open to having GECOM open the process for one week to allow persons who are now in possession of their source documents the opportunity to register.
General Secretary of the PNCR Oscar Clarke told Stabroek News that the issue of access to source documents was one which his party had raised several times in the past. “We are not unaware of the fact that there are several people who cannot get registered because of source documents,” Clarke said while adding that the latest attempt by the PPP may be too late.
“We are not hopeful. We have to move on,” he said. He also questioned what the law permitted GECOM to do at this late stage. “If the government feels so strongly about it, they will have to move to have the law amended.
They would have to talk to us and we would have to go to Parliament,” he said. Clarke emphasized that his party is not in “delay mode” when it comes to the holding of the 2011 elections.
According to Clarke, when the PNCR last met with GECOM on June 3 (just before the June 9 closure of the Claims and Objections period), the party had proposed that GECOM collaborate with the General Register Office (GRO).
The PNCR recommended that GECOM check with the GRO to see how many people were in the pipeline waiting for documents and to try to accelerate the process.
Chief scrutineer for the AFC David Patterson said it was “quite baffling” that the PPP/C will would raise this issue at this late stage, when the matter of people not being able to register because of the absence of source documents was raised since 2008.
“We are not against people being registered but at this late time?” he asked rhetorically.
He said that if the PPP/C was serious they could have put more resources into addressing the problems a long time ago. “And even if they have dialogue [now] and they don’t put in resources, then we are only delaying,” he said.
Patterson said too that GECOM needs to be more open to scrutiny, as he pointed specifically to the Preliminary Voters’ List. While noting that there were several positives about GECOM’s operations, Patterson said that there is a request from the parliamentary opposition for more monitoring of the Commission’s operations.