Date First Published February, 16, 1992

PNC stays with old electoral officials

THE ruling PNC, through its members on the Elections Commission has nominated the 10 former registrars to continue in these positions for the upcoming elections putting it at odds with opposition parties which have put up fresh names.

At Friday’s meeting, well-placed sources say, the PNC Commissioners forwarded the names of the previous 10 registrars as their nominees for the posts contending that they are experienced, trained and should be given preference.

Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) nominated member Dr Bud Mangal told  Stabroek News that the opposition parties proposed “about three to four” new names for all regions excepting Regions 7 and 8. More time, he said was needed by the opposition parties to identify suitable candidates for these two.

The names offered by both the PNC and the opposition parties will now be taken by Commission Chairman Rudy Collins and mulled, according to well-placed sources. PNC Commissioner Neville Bissember Sr. says he expects Collins would be ready with a feedback this week.

Sources say that Collins is expected to consult the wider public on the candidates put forward. He will then come back to a Commission meeting with the names he has selected. Both sides would be afforded a day or two, according to sources, to voice their opinion on

This method of select­ing registrars was decided on after the Commission reversed an earlier decision approving an op­position proposal to have 10 regional committees pick candidates.

Sources say that the PCD members objected strenuously to the old registrars being put up. The opposition has consistently claimed these registrars will not operate impartially. Sources say the PNC however argued that the Commission had previously approved these persons to hold the posi­tions of registrars.

Dr. Mangal said he pointed out that it was not the Commission who agreed to these names but former Chief Election Of­ficer Ronald Jacobs who came up with them. Dr. Mangal said he reminded the Commission that it had entertained a motion of no-confidence in Jacobs.

Bissember said he felt that the registrars who held the position pre­viously were experienced and knowledgeable about logistics after undertaking field work last year. He also noted that they had attended three training seminars and “preference” should be accorded to them. He however said that if there is evidence that the person did not per­form well in that position then he should not be con­sidered.

Sources say Collins said at the meeting he was still awaiting a draft from the Attorney General’s Chambers on changes to laws to give it full control over elections. The draft, he told Commissioners, was close to completion and the entire package would be discussed in the Commission.

Early indications from the first stage of the People Test in Linden, according to sources, suggested that the information on the house-to-house registra­tion forms was “more or less” verified. The test will continue in all parts of the country.

An edited account of the proposal by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ex­pert John Gargett on verification checks for the list was presented to the Commissioners. Results of the People Test should be analysed by the end of this month.

Collins told Commis­sioners that allegations by the Democratic Labour Movement that an order for 30,000 proxy forms was placed by the Com­mission was without foun­dation.

Yesterday, staff of the National Registration Centre, members of the Commission management team and other elections officials were in a seminar organised by the Commis­sion on ‘the elections process, the way forward’.

It was expected to deal with how clearcut and ef­fective management of the elections could be en­forced and transparent processes put in place among other things.

Trinidad and Tobago Chief Election Officer, Jocelyn Lucas and Carter Center Co-ordinator Den­nis King were slated to ad­dress the invitees.

The Editor of the Guyana Chronicle, Adam Harris, Moses Nagamootoo of the Mirror newspaper, Stan­ley Singh of the registra­tion centre, former Am­bassador Harold Sahadeo (a member of the manage­ment team) and a UNDP expert were also scheduled to address the participants at the BIDCO Training Centre.

Teacher Nellie

NELLIE WISHART was too young to remember when her father died. He had some problem or the other with his kid­neys and when he finally succumbed her dressmaker mother lugged the four offspring from the house in Geor­getown to her folks in Ann’s Grove.

In the house lived two aunts. Frances, who was on a brief sojourn before pouncing on her third husband, and the younger, reserved Edith.

The cottage was situated on a five acre plot on which every fruit to which the soil and climate were friendly, grew. Ex­cept genips.

Aunt Fran was of perpetually high spirits. When it was your birthday, Nellie remem­bers she would wake you with a bouquet of freshly picked wild flowers and sang, in the sweet voice she lent to the choir every Sunday morning, ‘happy birthday to you’. How then could you miss presents? And, Aunt Fran danced. She had a dance for all the music she heard, dances that were so con­tagious that they enlivened the peaceful country cot­tage in Douchfour, Ann’s Grove.

At fifteen Nellie became a pupil teacher and taught for the next five years at a school in the village to help her mother out. Five years after she had an offer at the Kitty  Methodist School under the father of the late President Burnham. She’d take a snack to school and travel home by train every afternoon. But a stern Mr. Burnham under whose nose her class had to be taught (in fear) the early morning rising for the train and the strain of travel her mother, Sarah, began to complain that she looked tired. She found lodging at the Carters.

Travelling was reduced to weekly then monthly then on holidays. Mrs. Carter seemed not to be satisfied with four kids (one of whom later became Sir John Carter, lawyer). Instead she mothered everybody, so Nellie was happy.

Next she went to the Trinity Methodist school and taught there until she retired in 1968 defying all attempts to send her to Berbice, Essequibo and other rural areas.

Nellie spent a large part of her life pumping education into kids in the slums of Georgetown, in a school that was so old that it collapsed one night. Even though that was the period categorised as the good old days, she says she has seen her fair share of hunger and want. The poor kids went to school tattered and barefooted like they do now, slept in class and played hookey. Once, she related, a parent nearly assaulted her in school and like now, society was scandalised.

She believed in corporal punishment, she said, but at times you turned a blind eye. She taught the boys’ class and boys vented their anger in fist fights under the school-house, shook hands and were friends again. When girls had a difference in opinion they sulked and were tense. It all had to do with socialisation. Parents didn’t expect that schools were the only place discipline would be taught.

They did it themselves. It didn’t matter how poor you were a good family name was important. Punishment in her time was meted out for the defaulters who didn’t practise basic hygiene and would appear at school with unkempt hair, dirty nails and dirty teeth. Lateness was the other abomination.

Once, she related, the driver of the truck that carried aerated drinks jumped down and took off his cap to show her his hair. He then stretched out his hands so she could see his finger-nails. “Look Miss,” he smiled with glee, clean hands, combed hair. You taught me that.” He was of course a grown man so she couldn’t exactly remember him, but she was pleased.

It is her belief that the breakdown in discipline and morals came when the customary prayers before and after classes were stopped. Religion, she said, taught children the importance of relationships, honesty and kindness. Now, children measure values by their peers’ stance on the issues and since a great number of kids have parents who are too busy making a dime and therefore have no time for them, it’s a blind leading the blind situation.

Even though many of her kids were hungry, Nel­lie explained, there was the Breakfast Centre in Smythe Street where kids from poor homes got balanced meals for a penny or by ticket. The centre was run by Mrs. Julia Bentham and catered for kids from the St. Phil­lips, St. Stephens, Trinity Methodist, St. Mary’s and St. Andrews schools.

Nellie Wishart never married, though there was no absence of admirers.

She wanted to see the world. First she travelled to England with a flight that cost her $666.66. She saw Westminster Abbey and burst into tears, she had lived her own fan­tasies and vowed to visit it after hearing on the radio lovely music played there during a royal wedding. She then visited Paris and other parts of Europe, the Caribbean islands and North America. Now and then she has regrets about not having a family of her own to fill the lovely house she bought on North Road some years ago after she was tired of living with friends for fear of loneli­ness. Her house, with dainty furniture make you reminisce on old English magazines — ‘Tidbits’ or ‘Women’s Weekly’ to be precise. In the living room on the upright piano she plays the songs she learnt years ago in Lynette Dolphin’s Music Ap­preciation classes.

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