The Alliance For Change (AFC) yesterday accused the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) of breaching the confidentiality of the elections process by allowing the names of nominators of candidates at the upcoming 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE) to be made public, thereby making them targets of threats and victimisation by political elements.
“This was done at the insistence – I say this publicly, because this was confirmed by GECOM – of the PPP [nominated commissioners],” campaign manager David Patterson told a press conference at the AFC head office in Georgetown.
Patterson said from 1992 until now, the names of nominators were not made public. The PPP commissioners, he said, insisted that the names of the nominators be made public on presentation of the list, while the AFC assured nominators that the elections process was confidential. “It is a well thought out plan. The ROs (returning officers) are unsure. They allowed people to take photos of the list. It is the same law we had in 2016. The law was not amended,” he said.
He continued, “Previously there was always a question of the right of the confidentiality of the electoral process. No one could know who you voted for or who you nominated. By doing this you have opened a whole can of worms.”
He called it a well thought out plan, while saying that all of the complaints came from the PPP and were in PPP strongholds, which GECOM has confirmed.
The higher officials at GECOM, Patterson also said, were caught unawares and there were no clear directions for ROs.
Efforts by Stabroek News to contact GECOM officials all day yesterday on a variety of issues were futile.
However, according to Section 44 (1) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, a list of candidates and a copy shall be handed over to the RO by the representative or deputy representative of the list and the RO shall forthwith cause a copy of the list to be posted in a conspicuous place outside of his office. Section 44(2) adds, “A list of candidates shall be in the prescribed form; and the submission shall bear the signature of each person submitting the same together with his name and the serial number of his identification card….”
At Tuschen and in some other areas, Patterson charged, ROs were “asking our candidates to sign affidavits that we did not trick any persons. That has never ever been the mandate of GECOM.”
Because the names were made public and because of the nature of some communities being small in population, both Patterson and AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan said that some of the nominators who may be in opposition in the heartland of strongholds of some political parties will be easy targets for victimisation. People may not vote for the APNU+AFC coalition but they will vote for the AFC, particularly in the heartland of the PPP support, Patterson further said. “Whatever happens, however GECOM decides,” Patterson said, “I fear that those persons whose names supported the AFC, the APNU and even the PPP will become targets. Their names are there. The presumption in this country is that if you are a nominator, the presumption is you are a supporter of that party.”
By their names being made public, he said, the nominators have been placed in “the most tender and unprotected areas to the vagaries of politicians and ill-minded politicians.”
Nominators may be blamed for losses of elections, he said. “That is the sad outcome of what they are doing when they think they are smart,” he added.
Patterson said he hopes that GECOM could address that flaw in the system, which could lead to discrimination.
He added that in local government elections people should support the persons who they think will do best for their communities and not “use this sad episode to break up the harmony in your community.”
Mahdia it is not a PPP stronghold, Patterson said, “but everyone will know who endorsed the PPP candidate and can imagine how people are going to interact with those persons. Being a nominator, you may not vote for them. GECOM is unaware of it. So ROs are now becoming judges.”
On the recanting by some backers of AFC lists of candidates, Ramjattan noted that in the Bloomfield/Whim area, at the very last moment, a number of people were brought to the returning officer by the PPP officials. “We indicated that this list we got as a result of them genuinely indicating that they are supporting our candidates…They signed knowing fully well that they were signing on to an AFC list,” he said.
The party has evidence, he said, that the PPP started the process of bullying, coercing and duping them into forming the group that went to Whim on Wednesday night. “I think that our representative Mavis Nagamootoo and others from Bloomfield Whim NDC kept their cool and thank God for that and hopefully that list will still be qualified notwithstanding all the allegations being made by the PPP and that set of people that they had,” Ramjattan said.
AFC deputy campaign manager Juretha Fernandes noted that the AFC has close to 400 candidates countrywide and will be contesting in the municipalities of Bartica, Linden, Mahdia, New Amsterdam, Mabaruma and Georgetown. They will also contest a number of local authority areas, including Diamond/ Grove, Bloomfield/Whim, Best/Klien/Pouderoyen, Leguan, Tuschen/Uitvlugt, Mora/Parika, Kwakwani, Haslington/Grove, Industry/Plaisance, Stewartville/Cornelia/Ida, La Jalousie and Good Hope/Number 51 Village.