GECOM Chairman assures integrity of ballot boxes
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr. Steve Surujbally yesterday dispelled claims that ballot boxes were tampered with. His remarks came in wake of allegations made by A Party for National Unity (APNU) which questioned the integrity of ballot boxes at a polling station in East Ruimveldt.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, APNU Elections Agent Joseph Harmon not only displayed a broken seal as evidence of tampering but also categorically expressed concern about incidents involving several People’s Progressive Party/Civic functionaries at the close of polls on Monday.
However, Dr Surjubally at a media briefing held at the GECOM media centre in the Savannah Suite of the Pegasus Hotel, assured that there has been absolutely no tampering of ballot boxes.
He also detailed the process of sealing the ballot boxes. He added that in addition to the statement of polls, party officials were on hand to ensure that all ballot boxes were properly sealed.
“The parties put their own seals to the ballot boxes, the statement of polls are there and the party seals are there on top of other seals so one seal being found somewhere and the rest are on …this means that the statement of polls are not compromised in any way and I can see no problems,” he confidently asserted.
He nonetheless disclosed that an investigation has been launched to determine the source of the seal which has 0023154 as its serial number.
The seals, he explained, are functional before and after mechanisms in terms of security for the ballot boxes and their contents. He expounded that it is only after the poll and the count that everything needed for the elections process is returned to the security of the ballot boxes and seals are attached again.
The ballot boxes under police escort are taken to the collection spot “so if you find a seal somewhere like in a school or a school yard I really do not think that one should make an issue of that because statements of polls signed by everybody is inside of each ballot box that is sealed.”
Assistance Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, said that he only learned of an allegedly tampered seal being found yesterday morning, adding that he was fortunate to be given the number by a member of the Private Sector Commission.
Lowenfield said that it is necessary to note that the East Ruimveldt area accommodated 10 polling stations. The boxes there were intended for ballots cast in South Georgetown. The boxes, he said, were stored about 210 meters east of East Ruimveldt in a 20-foot container situated in the North Ruimveldt Multilateral School Compound.
At the close of poll and the subsequent count on Elections Day, Lowenfield said that the boxes were escorted by police across the highway to the container. He insisted that “there was one fluid movement from the East Ruimveldt Complex across the way to the storage location.”
Lowenfield was tasked with visiting a container which housed the ballot boxes in order to make a determination whether any of the 10 boxes at that location were compromised. “It was necessary for us to check those boxes to verify that the seals were all in place and frankly I found all of the seals there,” he noted.
But even as he gave assurance of the integrity of the ballots, the Chairman questioned the motive of the allegations of tampering, adding that the situation may very well be an off-shoot of persons’ paranoia because of their inexperience.
“Because of development that people are seeing happening that they thought that let us make an issue of this and let GECOM answer us and assure us that there is no problem. I am assuring this nation, I am assuring all the political parties that nothing untoward has happened…”