There is no evidence to support Nokta’s allegation of opposition party influence in Gecom

Dear Editor,
Please permit me to state the facts regarding the construct and operations of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), in response to a Demerara Waves publication in which Mr Shyam Nokta is reported to have said at the just concluded Congress of the People’s Progressive Party that there is opposition party influence in Gecom.  Before so doing, however, I must note that no evidence was presented to substantiate the (published) comment attributed to Mr Nokta.

Gecom was established in May 2000 by virtue of the Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2000, which repealed and re-enacted Article 161 of the Constitution on the basis of recommendations emerging from the Constitution Reform Commission that were ratified by Parliament. The re-enacted Article 161 re-states the same mechanism for the appointment of the Commission as provided for since the 1992 general election, save that the Commission is now established as a permanent one.

The current Chairman, as provided for by law, was appointed in 2001 from a list of six persons that was submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, since he was found to be “not unacceptable” to the then President.

In addition to the Chairman, the Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2000 also provides for the appointment of six members of the Commission in the following manner, as was applied in the appointment of the current members of the Commission:-

• Three members appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgment

•  Three members appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition after he has meaningfully consulted the non-governmental opposition parties represented in the National Assembly.

Gecom sets policy for voter registration, maintenance of the voters’ list and the administration of all national, regional and local government elections within the legislative framework, whilst the Permanent Elections Secretariat implements the policy under the supervision of the Chief Election Officer (CEO).

The Secretariat also performs the tasks of the National Registration Centre under the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08http: // and the CEO acts as the National Commissioner for Registration. The National Registration Centre has responsibility for the registration of electors and maintenance of the registers whereas the Secretariat has responsibility for administering elections. Gecom is constitutionally obliged to act with impartiality and fairness in the execution of its duties (162 (1) [b], Constitution (Amendment) Act).

Gecom is insulated from executive and political interference in the performance of its functions. By virtue of article 226 of the Constitution Gecom, like other constitutional commissions shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other person or authority.

The Commission meets statutorily every Tuesday unless otherwise determined by the Commission itself.  All matters are dealt with by the Commission within a quorum as required by law.

Article 226 of the Constitution as amended by the Constitution (Amendment) Act, No. 2 of 2000 provides that the quorum for a meeting of the Commission shall be the Chairman and not less than four members of the Commission, ie two appointed by the President in his own deliberate judgment and two who were recommended for appointment by the opposition.

Depending on the crucial nature of certain matters, there is the general understanding that such matters will be dealt with only with the participation of the entire Commission.
In the conduct of its business the Commission has recognized the need for the establishment and maintenance of two-way consultative relationships with all stakeholders.  This has, from time to time, resulted in Gecom meeting with representatives of the governing and opposition political parties, the Private Sector Commission and civil society organisations.

There are occasions on which Gecom took on board and/or acted upon requests of the governing and opposition political parties with the objective of being a better service provider. This cannot and must never be interpreted as governing party or opposition party influence.  In fact, this can only be seen as Gecom facilitating inclusive engagements in compliance with international standards for elections best practice.

In view of the foregoing, please allow me to state categorically that there is no evidence to validate any accusation that there is opposition party influence in Gecom.
Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Persaud
Public Relations Officer
Guyana Elections Commission

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