GECOM Chairman confident request to UN for IT specialist will be granted

James Patterson 

Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson while declaring the recent visit by a United Nations (UN) team a success, has expressed confidence that his request for an internationally recruited Information Technology specialist will be granted.

He made it clear though that once a candidate has been identified, the Commission will have the final say.

“I can say with some assurance that nothing has been finalised but we are not far from that,” Patterson told Stabroek News during a recent interview.

In February of this year, GECOM wrote the UN Resident Coordinator in Guyana requesting UN electoral assistance. While this request had not been made public, this newspaper has been informed that the expert is needed for technical assistance in voter registration and the 2018 local government elections and 2020 general elections.

It was based on this request that a United Nations Electoral Needs Assessment Mission was deployed to Guyana last month. The team, which was led by Hassan Sesay, Senior Electoral/Political Affairs Officer, began its work here on May 7th and left several days later after meeting with a number of stakeholders.

Justice Patterson could not say definitively whether someone has been identified for the post.

However, he stressed that it is up to the Commission to say “yea or nay to whether the foreign person would be the person to fill the position,” before noting that there was no objection by the commission to such a candidate. In justifying the request for a non-national, Justice Patterson noted that such a person will not come with any “local agenda.”

According to the Chairman, the expert, once accepted, will be lending technical support and “giving advice to make it [the operations] as foolproof as possible generally.”

He declined to expound on the outcomes of the two meetings he and the commissioners had with members of the UN team.

Based on the information previously provided to this newspaper, the purpose of the mission was to evaluate the current political and electoral environment in Guyana as well as to assess the form of future UN electoral assistance.

The areas of assessment included the political, legal, institutional, technical and security environment and the electoral framework; the capacity and needs of election stakeholders and in particular the electoral management body or bodies; the UN capacity for electoral assistance and co-ordination mechanisms; current and planned electoral assistance by other organisations; sustainability and cost-effectiveness of requested or proposed electoral assistance.

The presence of the mission to Guyana was unknown until the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG) sent out a press release.

The release stated that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) team—which consisted of Sesay;  Fernanda Lopes, Election/ Governance Expert and  Guillermo Kendall, Senior Political Affairs Officer—met with  Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, SC and team on the request made by GECOM for provision of technical aid in preparation for the two elections.

The release said that the discussion covered a range of issues that will be dealt with in preparation for the local government and general elections. “Those issues are the results tabulation process; developing the necessary software to expedite the process; the biometric instrument used at polling stations; verifications of electoral listings; and to ensure security at the polling stations,” the release said.

The release added that the UNDP would render support and guidelines in those capacities and where else necessary.

Meanwhile, Patterson reiterated that preparations for the upcoming local government elections are on track. He said that he has been assured that everything is in place and that GECOM is “ready to go.”

A new cycle of continuous registration began on May 21st and will conclude on July 15th, 2018.

Persons needing to register are being advised to visit the office in their respective communities between 8 am and 5 pm from Monday to Thursday, between 6 am and 4 pm on Friday, and 10 am to 2 pm on weekends and holidays.

There are 27 registration centres located across the country.


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