GECOM confirms no Local Govt. polls this year
… distribution of new ID cards to be completed by year end – Chairman
By Gary Eleazar
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr Steve Surujbally, yesterday at a media briefing confirmed that there could be no Local Government elections this year.
According to Dr Surujbally, the groundwork that has to be completed before such elections could take place would not be completed by November 30 deadline that had been set for the holding of local government elections.
Dr Surujbally said that there must first of all be the completion of the National Register of Registrants (NRR), the production and distribution of the new modern Identification Cards, the delimitations exercise, the claims and objections period as well as an education drive.
The NRR is still to be completed and there are in excess of 300 cases of multiple registrations which have been identified as a result of the finger print cross referencing programme and is currently being addressed.
There is also another 84 cases still to be unresolved given the poor quality of the fingerprint and this is also to be addressed.
In excess of 432,000 registrants have been verified and Okayed, according to Dr Surujbally.
As it relates to the new ID cards the Company Thomas De La Rue was paid 90 per cent of the total sum due for the production of the new ID cards at a cost of just under US$2 per card placing the overall figure in the vicinity of US$870, 000.
The company was approached ever since last year for the production of the new cards but said that it would not commence any such exercise until at least 90 per cent of the total sum paid over and this was done on June 16, according to Dr Surujbally.
According to Dr Surujbally as it relates to the delimitation of constituencies, GECOM will not be changing existing boundaries, but will seek to establish constituencies within and in conjunction with the existing legal/administrative framework of the Regional system.
He noted that should there be adjustments GECOM would be using its legal authority.
Dr Surujbally also reported that GECOM has decided that the Commission will determine Operational Guidelines and Principles pertaining to the delimitation exercise and shared with Stakeholders namely the political parties, Regional Democratic Councils, Local Authority Areas and village leaders among others at the appropriate time.
He pointed however that the implementation of the delimitation will be hinged directly on the passage of the proposed new system for Local Government Elections and as such was paying attention to the parliamentary process given the imminent recess coupled with the fact that the relevant Bills are in the select committee stage.
“Delimitation should be completed by the end of October and GECOM will be guided by the mandatory Order to be signed by the Minister of Local Government relative to the number of councilors, and by extension the number of constituencies for the respective Local Authority Areas.”
The GECOM Chairman also reported that the entity is currently preparing to conduct the compulsory Claims and Objections exercise to produce the Official Lists of Electors (OLEs) required for the holding of Local Government Elections.
He added that training for the exercise had been completed, but refresher courses will be held before Claims and Objections commences.
“The Claims and Objections exercise will provide opportunities for persons who will be 18 years or older by a date to be specified by the Commission, but who are not now registered, to apply for registration….
“Any person who will be 18 years or older by a qualifying date to be specified by GECOM, and who is a Guyanese by birth, descent, naturalization, or is a citizen from a Commonwealth country living in Guyana for one year or more can register during the Claims and Objections exercise and be issued a National Identification Card thereafter.”
Dr Surujbally did emphasis that the Claims and Objections exercise will not commence until the ID card distribution and the delimitation exercises are completed and that the exercise should not be more that six weeks.
As it relates to the education programme Dr Surujbally told media operatives that GECOM is currently fine-tuning a comprehensive strategy for embarking on a Civic and Voter Education campaign for the conduct of Local Government Elections.
This he said involves the provision pertinent in all strata including at grass roots levels, He said that the education drive would include the production and installation of suitable billboards and banners at strategic locations, the production and distribution of flyers and pamphlets, visits to schools, and the publication of notices in the local newspapers.
He added also the appropriate infomercials will also be produced for publication via radio and television.
He said that it would focus initially on the aspects of the electoral process for Local Government Elections that are not hinged on Parliamentary approval of the proposed local government legislation such as distribution of ID cards, Claims and Objections activities, the need to obtain the relevant source documents for registration among others.
“Voter Education, which is a continuous undertaking, cannot be implemented in totality until the proposed new system for Local Government Elections is approved by Parliament and becomes law.”