…Party baffled at opposition stance on reopening registration
The ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday said that it was baffled at the opposition stance on the re-opening of the Claims and Objections period, since it was the opposition that first raised the issue about the number of persons who did not have birth certificates and are unable to register.
PPP Presidential Candidate, Donald Ramotar, dismissed any suggestion that the PPP’s support for the re-opening of the Claims and Objections period was intended to stall the holding of national elections this year and thus extend the current term of the PPP.
“We have absolutely no interest in extending our life (term in office) as the (main opposition) PNC did; we have fought for all of our lives for free and fair elections and we want to have free and fair elections,” Ramotar said at the party’s Freedom House headquarters in Georgetown.
The PPP estimates that some 5,000 persons were unable to register because they did not have a birth certificate – the primary source document that was required for registration.
Hence the party is favourable towards GECOM re-opening the Claims and Objections period, which ended on June 9, to allow a last chance for persons to get registered.
Ramotar, also the party’s General Secretary, said that since the close of Claims and Objections, an estimate 2,000 persons have collected their birth certificates.
He said that there are persons who had made repeated efforts to get their birth certificates from the General Registrar’s Office (GRO) but could not.
Yesterday, the party introduced to the media a group of persons with ID cards from the last elections that are now unable to register to get their names on the National Register of Registrants which would eventually be used to determine the Final Voters’ List.
“These are real people who voted at the last elections, but who could get onto the list because they could not get their birth certificates even though they made several attempts to do so,” Ramotar stated.
Three opposition political parties have written to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) accusing the elections body of bowing to demands of the ruling party and the government to re-open the Claims and Objections period to allow more persons to register.
This, the parties say, could call into question the final voters’ list for regional and general elections this year.
“The need to re-open another round of the Claims and Objections is pregnant with the possibility of irreparable danger to the integrity of the final voters list,” the parties said in a letter to the Chairman of the Commission, Dr Steve Surujbally.
The letter was signed by representatives of the main opposition PNCR, the Alliance for Change and the Working People’s Alliance.
The parties, in their letter, said that they have received reports from their field representatives that GECOM has commenced preparations in the field for a new round of Claims and Objections for a period of 13 days. The parties said they were not advised of such operations.
Ramotar yesterday indicated that the Elections Commission, on which sits three Commissioners representing the ruling party, could vote on the issue tomorrow.
If anything, the PPP suggested that the opposition parties should have jumped at the opportunity to have more persons registered since they were the ones who were strident in pointing out the fact that persons could be left off the list.
Ramotar said he was “extremely puzzled” and “terribly disappointed” at the position the opposition has taken.
The Joint Opposition Political Parties had said that the main concern of their representatives, that a considerable number of citizens who have applied to the GRO for their birth certificates were still waiting in line.
According to the chairman of GECOM the Commission had documented the particulars of the approximately 38,000 who could not apply for registration, because they were not in possession of source documents.
He said that the Commission shared this with the General Registrar’s Office and the political parties in Parliament.
Dr Surujbally said that the Commission had been pleading with people to get their source documents in order for six years now.
During two phases of Claims and Objections (under which persons could have registered if they weren’t, or make changes) approximately 80,000 persons more were registered – more than double the approximately 38,000 persons in question.
As such the Commission had decided not to extend the Claims and Objections period.
Ramotar said that it was opposition parties PNC, AFC and TUF, plus the private sector, that had all called on GECOM to do something about the number of persons who could not register.
“Now we have this great somersault taking place in the opposition camp, against any attempt to reopen these things.
“It seems to me to be really childish and petty if their only basis for doing this is because the PPP now recognizes and has also made a similar request,” Ramotar declared.
As far as the suggestion goes that the party is pushing for the reopening of Claims and Objections as a means to delay the elections and keep itself in power longer than it should, Ramotar spoke of GECOM having some form of “mechanism” to ensure that the life of the current PPP/Civic term is not extended.
He said that the PPP’s only contest is that those persons who have not registered be given the opportunity to do so, and so can they can fulfill their civic duty of voting for a government of their choice.
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