The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has started training for staff for national house-to-house registration.
“We started on Saturday and Sunday, training those trainers who will be out in the field training other staff,” GECOM Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward told Stabroek News.
Ward explained that while approximately 100 persons were trained, only 75 are likely to be employ-ed based on their performance during the evaluation process.
“We are looking for 25 teams of three,” she further explained, while noting that the evaluations are currently being marked in a process expected to be completed tomorrow.
The successful candidates will then be notified and the training of other staff will commence.
GECOM has been allocated $3.36 billion for house-to-house registration this year and government-nominated members of the commission, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, have argued that the current voters’ list, which has in excess of 600,000 names, is severely bloated and that no “credible” election can be held before the list is cleansed of both the dead and those who have migrated.
They held on to this argument even as the opposition-nominated commissioners pushed for an election date to be set within three months following the passage of a no-confidence motion against government last December or during the validity of the current list, which expires on April 30th.
The Carter Center had suggested a compromise, with the National Registration Act being operationalised to sanitise the list of overseas-based Guyanese.
Section 40(1) provides for the Chief Immigration Officer to compile a list of those emigrating from the country and to submit this list every three months to the Commissioner of Registration.
The law further provides at 40 (3) for the Commissioner to cancel the registration of these migrants under section 38 (1).
Section 38(1) (e) specifically provides for a registration officer to cancel the registration of a person if the registration officer is satisfied that such a person is not qualified to be registered.
Alexander had previously said that this provision does not violate a person’s right to vote since they can be present during the claims and objections period to have their registration reinstated but he later told Stabroek News that questions have been raised about whether the provision is constitutional.
“I am willing to explore the option provided. My objective is to have a sanitized list and I’m willing to explore if this option will provide such a list in a timely manner. We will, however, have to look into the legal questions surrounding the suggestion. It has been suggested that the measure is unconstitutional as it infringes on a citizen’s right to vote, he said noting that Guyana’s constitution provides for each citizen to be eligible to vote.
“Being non-resident does not mean you are no longer a citizen and if someone chooses to challenge it, we might have a situation like the 1997 ID Card Case,” he posited.
Following the 1997 elections in which all voters were required to present an ID before being issued a ballot, Esther Perreira filed a challenge to the measure, which was later declared unconstitutional resulting in the elections being invalidated.
It is unlikely that the Carter Center proposal would be under consideration in light of the Appeal Court ruling in a split decision last Friday against the validity of the no-confidence motion.