In the wake of the 1992 elections that removed the People’s National Congress from Office, the Guyana Elections Commission underwent many changes. The most significant being the decision to become an independent body.
Prior to those elections, GECOM was a three-man body comprising one member from the People’s National Congress, one from the People’s Progressive Party and a Chairman appointed by the People’s National Congress.
Protests by the then opposition PPP led to the expansion of the elections commission to seven—three from each of the major parties and a chairman nominated by the President of the Republic. This was later modified to include the other political parties who duly nominated one member to the commission on the opposition side.
The members voted along party lines right up until the 2001 elections when under the Chairmanship of Dr Steve Surujbally, they said that they would vote on issues rather than along party lines. They claimed that they were independent.
Last week, the independence of the organisation came into question when Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon ordered GECOM to stop advertising in the local press. He further ordered that GECOM advertise through the electronic system.
Dr Surujbally has since objected to the order. He is contending that most of the people to whom the advertisement is directed do not have access to the internet.
Further, for the government to issue directives to GECOM is tantamount to curtailing the independence of the elections commission.
The government recently decided on the electronic means of advertising to save money and to prevent allegations of discrimination by way of selective media to place its advertisement.
GECOM is now in the process of continuing registration to accommodate all those who were missed during the house-to-house registration last year.
It is funded by the Guyana Government with monies from the national treasury. Already, the government has refused to release funds to pay the scrutineers and others who provided a service during the registration process.
Also among those still to be paid are the taxi operators whom GECOM used, the caterers and some security guards.
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