APNU says has found SOP anomalies

-wants overhaul of GECOM

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) says that it has come across “inconsistencies and anomalies” in its verification of Statements of Poll provided by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and said it should be ready to present its report to the public today.

This is according to APNU member Mervyn Williams who spoke at the party’s press conference held at its Regent Street office yesterday.

“APNU continues to verify the Statements of Poll received from the Guyana Elections Commission. The process should be completed by Friday evening…at which point in time APNU will provide the public with a full and detailed report of its findings,” Williams said.

He said that the party’s position remains that whatever the findings of the verification exercise, the party considers it a necessary undertaking within the election process, “given the several acts of mismanagement and breaches of procedure and law perpetrated by GECOM.”

Speaking to the issue, APNU prime ministerial candidate Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine said that he did not want to give partial findings of the verification process. “What I can tell you is that there have been a number of inconsistencies and anomalies which we are attempting to pursue and which we are attempting to analyse. There has not been a complete convergence and in that regard we don’t wish to speculate on the scale of that convergence or lack of convergence or what its implications are. We will make all of that clear to you at the end of the verification exercise,” Dr. Roopnaraine said.

“We have certainly identified some specific SOPs in which we have particular interest and in others, and this is not restricted to Georgetown. We found that there were a number of other areas where we believe particular boxes and SOPs from particular polling stations need more scrutiny than others,” he said.

Asked about the concerns that the APNU had about seals being found, Dr. Roopnaraine said that the party is not pursuing the issue any further. He said that the party was informed by GECOM that the seals in question were those that had to be taken off containers to get into the ballot boxes and not those used to secure the ballot boxes afterwards.
When asked whether the party was satisfied with the explanation that GECOM gave, he said, “I am very satisfied with very little that I am hearing in relation to explanations by GECOM.”

He said that the party has had several reports from polling agents and there are several areas where their reports indicate that there were practices that require explanation “and we are going to, in effect, document all of those very carefully, make sure that we have signed statements, so that we are not acting on either third party reports or speculations, that we will try to get hard, concrete evidence from our polling agents as to what happened in particular polling areas.”

List of MPs

Dr. Roopnaraine said that the party is almost through with its list of persons to enter the 10th Parliament and on the Regional seats. He said that while the party is not working with a set formula for the allocation of the parliamentary seats. “We have many candidates that we intend to put in the RDCs. We have completed the list for the RDCs. There are one or two issues around Region Four [and Region Ten],” he said.

“As far as the Parliamentary list is concerned, I would say that of the 26 names that have to go into Parliament, we have to come to conclusion on about 23 of those names and we expect the process to be completed today,” he said.

“We are not working with any precise formula in relation to the list. We want to ensure that the Parliamentarians that we put in Parliament understand that there are going to be no overseas trips and that they are going to have to be available literally all the time because of the narrowness of the Parliamentary majority,” he said.

Elections commission

The APNU is also calling for the complete overhaul of GECOM, since the Commission is seen as partisan and not independent, as the law intends for it to be in a democratic society. Further, the party believes that the Carter-Price formula which has been used over the years has failed to deliver an independent commission.

Dr. Roopnaraine said that the GECOM is governed by Article 161 of the Constitution and noted that this is one of the protected articles in the Constitution, needing a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly for it to be changed. “It is in fact one of those areas where we will be seeking the cooperation of the other side to, in effect, achieve some consensus on the need to alter Article 161,” he said. “It cannot be altered by majority. It has to be altered by consensus in Parliament,” he said.

Dr. Roopnaraine said that there is another remedy to altering the Constitutional Article. But he said that this would be a Catch 22. “In other words, the remedy to a protected provision is that you can go to Parliament [and either] get a two-thirds majority [or] a Referendum,” he said.

“Now to get a Referendum you just need a simple majority and take a Referendum Bill to Parliament. So you can in fact have a Referendum. But were we to get a Referendum on GECOM it will be administered by the very GECOM we are trying to dismantle and this is the Catch 22. That is why the absolutely best procedure in relation to the dismantling of the present arrangement is to go for an amendment to Article 161 of the Constitution which requires Parliamentary consensus and is one of the areas I believe we should engage President Ramotar and the PPP/C, he said.

Dr. Roopnaraine said that the Elections Commission is something that the WPA and other parties fought for prior to 1992 “and that we have been burdened with ever since.”
He said that the present Commission is a political Commission. “It is established by political parties and while there is a provision in the Constitution saying that the Commission as established with the parties’ nominees on it (they) really should not have any hand in the managing of the elections and their roles should be restricted to areas of policy,” he said. That Commissioners were in the process of verifying SOPs seemed to be a foray into an area which the Constitution prohibits, he said.

“I am hoping that we could reach agreement among all three parties in Parliament (on) the matter of the modernizing and the complete reconstitution of the elections commission, along the lines of commissions in the Caribbean,” he said. He said that GECOM in its present form was good in 1992 for the historical circumstances in which Guyana found itself at that time. “[GECOM] having achieved what it has achieved in 1992 I think that it has outlived its usefulness and it is now a hindrance to progress,” he said.

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