GRO registration process transparent, not partisan

-Minister Felix

Winston Felix

Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix yesterday refuted claims of impropriety and publicly legitimised Member of Parliament,  Richard Allen’s involvement in the outreach activity last week by the General Registrar’s Office (GRO) in Barima-Waini (Region One) to provide registration services for residents there.

According to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency, Felix was at the time responding to allegations, made by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and published in yesterday’s edition of the Guyana Times against Allen. (See other story on page 19.)

“None of the allegations mentioned has any truthfulness behind it… I Winston Gordon Felix, Minister [of] Citizenship has authorised Mr. Allen since last year to mobilise and assist the GRO staff with moving around… MP Allen has not interfered in the work of the GRO staff. He is of help to them,” he said, according to the release.

Felix’s statement raises the question about the propriety of a governing MP being associated with the outreach work of the GRO.

The Citizenship Minister said that the GRO is obligated to register all citizens and will not display any partiality to any persons being registered.

“We are ensuring that this is a transparent process. It is done in the open. The public is invited. No one is there to discriminate as to who should be registered and who should not be registered. The registration process takes place in the full glare of the public… We are endeavouring to ensure that the public interest is served by having children registered… That is what we’re after. We’re not after any other ulterior motive. Each child that is born in Guyana must have a birth certificate,” he said.

Felix, a former Police Commissioner and Chief Immigration Officer,  also stressed that only registrations were done during the outreach, thus demolishing the claim that Allen had handed out birth certificates. “Mr. Allen, in this year, 2018, could not have issued or could not have handed out, or could not have received any birth certificate from anyone because there were no birth certificates handed out or to be received from anyone in those areas,” Felix declared.

Deputy Registrar General, Louis Crawford said that the GRO’s registration process, in this case, does not allow for the immediate release of birth certificates.

“They do not take birth certificates with them. They receive the applications from the field and [they are] brought to Georgetown where it is processed. That process takes sometimes… some months… Having discovered cross-checks and balances that the person’s birth was not registered, then we will proceed to register that birth and the certificates are returned to the persons in the area. It is by way of mail,” he said.

The release said that Crawford also clarified that Allen’s responsibilities were focused on logistical and mobilisation support for the outreach.

“We seek help in mobilisation… so whenever we go on those outreaches… we capture most of the persons there… Yes, Mr. Allen was used… because of his knowledge of the area and the assistance that he provided the General Registrar to having the staff moving around and in terms of accommodation. In terms of the actual work, he plays no part in it,” he said.

The outreaches are seen as essential to the Ministry of Citizenship’s ultimate goal to raise Guyana’s 89 percent registration rate to 100 percent.