‘We know what we are doing’ – says Surujbally on voter education
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) knows what it is doing, Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally said yesterday, in responding to criticisms about its voter education programme.
“We have our work Plan which, from its inception, contained the comprehensive strategy for Civic and Voter Education,” Surujbally stated.
“But we must be able to do our work without unnecessary interruptions. We have to be able to focus on the bigger tasks ahead of us rather than be distracted by the specious pronouncements and accusations like the one to which we are now forced to respond.”
As far as Dr Surujbally is concerned there are two issues at hand, namely that people know where they have to go to vote and how to vote.
As a result, he said, a plan was crafted by the Commission to carry out its voter education work and he was confident it can be done in the remaining days before Guyanese go to the polls.
Political parties have been complaining of the lack of vigour with which the Commission seems to be carrying out its voter education programme.
However, Surujbally said that those very political parties were informed of the Commission’s work plan which included the production and publication of educational materials depicting various aspects of the election process.
He said these educational materials include brochures, flyers, billboards, banners, posters, notices, infomercials and the use of loud hailers (at grass root levels), focusing on equipping electors with knowledge about how to cast their votes as well as providing other significant information about various aspects of the elections, such as the rights and responsibilities of electors, appointment of proxy, how to mark the ballot, valid and invalid ballots etc.
Going on the defence, he said that GECOM collaborated with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) to carry a nine-page section on elections in the alpha-numerical pages of the current Telephone Directory.
Dr Surujbally stated that the Commission’s hotlines have been reactivated so persons can call and receive information they need.
He said that 150,000 copies of the brochure titled “What every voter must know about voting and elections in Guyana” are being distributed countrywide. He said tens of thousands of copies of this brochure have been given to contesting Political Parties for distribution, with one rejecting them saying that they would use their own.
He added that the publication of 15 infomercials via the electronic media had commenced even before the parties’ concerns were published in the Media.
GECOM has been working consistently with Merundoi Inc in a consultative manner insofar as this Company’s production and broadcast of appropriate messages concerning elections is concerned, Dr Surujbally said..
He noted that GECOM has complied with the statutory provisions in publishing relevant Notices in the four local daily newspapers pertaining to the Official List of Electors, the Political parties that are contesting the elections and their Lists of Candidates, the appointed Returning Officers and Deputy Returning Officers and their respective Offices, List of Polling Places, the Decommissioning of ‘old’ National Identification cards, and so forth.
Dr Surujbally added that all of the pertinent information is accessible on the GECOM website, which is user friendly and which is constantly updated, could be accessed for pertinent information about the Elections.
He said that immediately after voting by Members of the Disciplined Forces, scheduled for Monday, GECOM will deploy bell criers and mobile teams with public address systems at the village and urban/rural levels across Guyana publicizing specific Civic and Voter Education messages.
This information would be about Election Day, the location of polling stations, the hours of voting, the need to check the Official List of Electors etc.
Dr Surujbally stated that this activity, like others was specifically scheduled to commence after the day of balloting by the Members of the Disciplined Forces in order that the electors could become enthused to check the respective Lists of Electors and Polling Stations after the Polling Stations would have been established and the Lists posted.
He said that while it is GECOM’s responsibility to carry out a comprehensive Civic and Voter Education Campaign, this does not mean that Political Parties must abrogate their responsibility to ensure that the Civic and Voter Education messages get to the electorate.
“Political parties must be equally involved. After all, it is they who want to get elected,” Dr Surujbally stated.