On the heels of the President’s announcement that he will call General Elections early next year, is a call from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to ensure that competent and suitable persons are recruited to work on polling day.
The Party is adamant that the President’s indication that elections will be next year should result in this process taking precedence and gaining momentum.
This was the contention of PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee, yesterday, as he hosted the Party’s weekly press conference.
At that forum, Rohee stressed the importance of quality training for persons recruited to work on Election Day. He said that this is so as to not have a repeat of problems during the 2011 elections.
According to Rohee, a GECOM trained Presiding Officer, working in a traditional PPP support area in 2011, “either intentionally or due to poor selection and training, failed to stamp 19 ballots with the six digit official stamp thus rendering those ballots rejected. This individual took away the democratic right of 19 hard-working Guyanese who have their country at heart.”
Further, he said that there were several instances in Georgetown where Presiding Officers refused to accept PPP candidates at polling stations.
Rohee told the media that the PPP certainly does not wish for a repeat of this occurrence next year.
He said that the PPP therefore urges GECOM to ensure that polling day workers and others who acted “unprofessionally” in 2011 are not selected again and those chosen now must act impartially at all times in the execution of their duties on polling day.
Rohee also said that “GECOM is obligated to the nation to make public the names and details of all selected polling day staff for public vetting.”
He opined that this will serve to improve the confidence of the Guyanese people in GECOM and allow the Commission to “maintain its own integrity.”
The General Secretary also wants GECOM to involve all major political stakeholders in reviewing polling places used in the 2011 elections and to make “firm decisions.”
Rohee said that, with the establishment of the many new housing schemes and the movement of people into existing schemes, a total review is needed.
He added, “The Party has made representation time and again to GECOM with regard to persons being asked to travel long distances to polling stations, especially in the Hinterland and Riverain Communities. Experience has taught us that in these instances, people are not inclined to travel the distance or cannot afford to do so.”
The politician then used that opportunity to “remind” GECOM that it is the Constitutional right of all Guyanese, be it on the coast or hinterland, to be afforded the opportunity to vote and GECOM is the vehicle to make that possible.
Rohee said that the issues he highlighted are not new to GECOM’s Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, or the members of the Commission and the Officers in the Secretariat. These issues had formed part of a discussion Agenda at a post Elections 2011 Retreat which was convened by the Chairman and members of GECOM in 2012.
The General Secretary then vowed to continue making representation “on behalf of the Guyanese people to ensure that the 2015 General and Regional Elections are free and fair.”
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