The People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/Civic) will be lobbying for broader definitions and stiffer penalties for elections offences, according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who says false information was discovered on more than half of the candidates’ lists that were recently submitted for the upcoming local government elections.
Jagdeo was speaking at a press conference yesterday at Freedom House on Robb Street, George-town, where he charged that false information was found on the lists for 42 out of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs) submitted last Friday by the Alliance for Change (AFC), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), and the United Republican Party (URP).
“We have observed that from our internal information over the last several days that in 42 of the 80 areas either APNU, AFC or the URP have forged signatures or have misled people into signing the backers’ list. We are finding, now, people who said ‘I never signed a document’ or they were saying that they signed [they] believed it was for something else,” Jagdeo explained, while adding that as a result, his party will be requesting that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) look at areas where it can strengthen penalties for transgressions of the law, not just for the Returning Officers (ROs) and other GECOM officials but also for parties contesting in the elections.
“We will be pushing for a greater definition of the offences and stiffer penalties because it’s a massive set of fraudulent actions. 42 of the 80 local authorities’ areas they have submitted false information and we are getting the people now, large numbers of them, and you will see them coming forward over the next few days. In fact, many of them will be going into the ROs’ offices to say they don’t want to be on that list,” Jagdeo said.
He noted that while the ROs have performed “generally well” across the country, his party did find a few exceptions where the officers acted in an “illegal and partisan manner” and the party intends to bring it to the attention of GECOM for disciplinary actions.
“We have been asking for this even in the past elections… We’ve been requesting this but GECOM has to initiate it. GECOM is a constitutional body and they have to initiate a lot of changes and it can’t be done by the executive alone,” Jagdeo added, while stating that he hopes the elections authority will now place emphasis on strengthened penalties and redefining offences, given what his party has unearthed.
There have also been accusations by members of APNU of the PPP listing persons who are dead or are living outside of the country on their lists, which Jagdeo said was only in isolated areas and that the party will investigate and rectify the claims.
When contacted yesterday, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of GECOM Yolanda Ward said that there has been no official complaint by any parties about forged lists.
She explained that currently there is a process that is ongoing where the respective ROs will be examining the lists and cross-checking them with their database of voters. If the ROs find any defects by the deadline on Wednesday, then the list would not be deemed viable.