APNU will not rest until controversial Region 4 returning officer removed

- Roopnaraine

Opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) says it “will not rest” until Gecom rescinds its decision to appoint Jaigobin Mohabir as the returning officer for Region 4.

“The run up to November 28 is not going to be smooth and easy if they insist on maintaining Mr Mohabir and if they insist on permitting the PPP to get away with the offences they are committing on every possible occasion,” APNU executive Dr Rupert Roopnaraine said yesterday during a press briefing.

“We will not rest until Mr Mohabir is removed as the returning officer for Region Four…,” Roopnaraine insisted saying that it would not be right to have “a violator of the electoral practices and systems sitting as the returning officer in the biggest constituency in the elections. We intend to use all the means at our disposal, including the courts, if the issue of Mr Mohabir is not resolved by the Elections Commission,” Roopnaraine said. He noted that it was Gecom’s Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally who had cast the deciding vote on the matter after the commissioners were locked 3-3 on the matter. Roopnaraine said APNU has written to Dr Surujbally requesting a meeting on this matter. And the fact that “no serious steps” have been taken to open the National Communications Network (NCN) to voices other than the PPP.

APNU executive Desmond Trotman pointed to the fact that Mohabir had been identified by Justice Claudette Singh “as a person who had created great illegalities in the 1997 elections. We are even more concerned, when… we understand that the political loyalty of the person is to the PPP and the PPP is boasting that it will win Region 4, a situation that it has never been able to do in the past,” Trotman said.

However, a Gecom source told this newspaper that the decision to stick with Mohabir was made after legal authorities had been consulted. The source also indicated that the top brass of Gecom’s Secretariat maintained that he was the most suitable person for this appointment in the region. According to the source, it was pointed out that Mohabir had also served in the 2001 and 2006 elections and there had been no problem with him.

Meanwhile, Roopnaraine said APNU will not be signing Gecom’s Code of Conduct saying that it was deficient in several ways. “We are not prepared to entertain a code of conduct that does not address, what for us, are central issues and central abuses. One has to do with campaign financing and the other has to do with access to the media,” he said. “We don’t believe that the Code of Conduct, to be signed by all the contesting parties can afford to ignore these two vital areas of electoral conduct,” he added. He insisted that the party will not be signing the code which is “being treated like just a scrap of paper by the very people who have signed it and who are threatening other people if they don’t sign it.

“APNU is conducting a campaign according to the highest standards; it has not signed the Code of Conduct. The PPP is conducting a campaign that is in constant violation of all modern electoral practices,” he said. Roopnaraine again called for Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon to resign in addition to all the permanent secretaries who have been campaigning for the PPP/C.

“We have called on Dr Luncheon to resign and to resign at once whether he done so or not I am not aware. Mr Robert Persaud attempted to console us by telling us that letters of resignation have been written. Well that is not good enough these people have to leave their positions as senior public servants before they can appear on a party, political platform…,” Roopnaraine stated.  He pointed to the Public Service Laws which prohibited such officials from campaigning.

Trotman, meanwhile, accused Gecom of being “very silent” on the behaviour of President Bharrat Jagdeo and Gail Teixeira at the party’s recent rally in Kitty.  “We also have to be concerned that in speaking on the platform that the PPP has actually laid the foundation for violence in this society,” he said pointing to reference made by Jagdeo and Teixeira about a Rwanda situation emerging here.