Many Guyanese in rural areas do not have birth certificates

Dear Editor,

I am pleased to read in your paper (SN, Jul 19) that the Elections Commission has decided to reopen registration of voters with elections due by December. However, simply reopening registration will not address the main concern and complaint of many potentially disenfranchised voters – acquiring proof of identity in order to register. Gecom requires a birth certificate or a passport in order to register to vote.  Many Guyanese, especially those in the hinterland and in rural areas, are without birth certificates (and as such without ID cards or passports) because their parents never registered them with the General Registrar’s Office, and as such they are without birth certificates. I travelled quite a bit around the country in recent weeks and came across many voters without a birth certificate.  And their names are not on the posted registration list. These adults, as babies were delivered by midwives or chamayin in their homes and the parents never bothered to register the births.  In most cases, the parents were illiterate and did not see a need for registration. Many of the adults who are not registered can’t read and write. In the past, the Registrar’s Office would accept certification from a priest or the midwife or a JP or headmaster of the birth, and a birth certificate was issued followed by Gecom registration and an ID card.  I don’t know whether the Registrar’s Office still follows that policy.  In the US, many Americans have the same problem with deliveries by midwives. The government accepts a deed poll in relation to the birth and subsequently issues a birth certificate, a social security card, and a passport.

Reopening the voter registration process would be meaningless unless all eligible adults are allowed to register and are given proper national ID cards.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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