Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, says that there is no need for House-to-House registration to be carried out before General Elections are held. At a press conference held yesterday, he responded to the contention raised by multiple government officials, that the practice executed by GECOM is absolutely necessary.
The most recent airing of that contention was by Alliance for Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, at a press conference on Wednesday last.
Jagdeo said that the government is attempting to frustrate the Constitutional deadline of March 19, which kicked in when the no-Confidence Motion was carried on December 21, 2018.
Ramjattan had said “AFC doesn’t see polls in 90 days. Both parties agreed to spend approximately $3B on a House-to-House registration process in 2019.”
Jagdeo rejected that statement, telling members of the media that Ramjattan can’t speak for the PPP/C. He said that “The AFC is so worried about elections,” and that’s the reason they are willing to use House-to-House registration as a tactic to frustrate the election deadline.
Jagdeo said that during the meeting of the government and the Opposition, the President placed House-to-House registration on the agenda. At that meeting, Jagdeo said that he told the President “… it is impossible to do House-to-House registration now.”
“No decision had been made at the GECOM commission level about a House-to-House registration. I know that the secretariat was preparing for one and they put, in their budget, $3B for this, which was then approved by the National Assembly. They were supposed to start in June.”
Jagdeo said he told the President that the situation has radically changed: “At that time, last year, when the Parliament passed the budget for House-to-House registration, the No-Confidence Motion had not been passed, and we have a deadline of 90 days imposed on us. So, now, it’s impossible to have House-to-House registration, which could take between six to nine months. I made it clear to the President that this cannot happen, given the timelines.”
Ramjattan had supported his advocacy for House-to House registration by saying that there are many persons who are dead, and should be removed from the list.
Jagdeo said that this issue could be cleared up “simply by getting the record from General Registrar’s Office (GRO), sharing these records with the two political parties, publishing their names in the newspapers. Then after two weeks, you remove the names from the list, and you clear out all the dead people.”
However, Ramjattan had also raised the contention that persons aged 15-17 at the time of the last election would now be eligible to vote, and that they should be added to the list. Jagdeo made no mention of that issue.
“We believe what is taking place now in Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is that the government is heavily influencing GECOM, not to start the preparations for elections in 90 days. I’ve notified the international community about this possibility.”
He raised what he believes to be a reluctance by GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to meet with the government and opposition to discuss the readiness of the body to hold elections.
“Let me tell you what Mr. Lowenfield has said. He has indicated that he cannot meet the two stakeholders.”
Jagdeo expressed his bewilderment that Lowenfield is refusing to meet with the government and the opposition, despite the fact that they are GECOM stakeholders.
He said that Lowenfield claims that he needs to get the approval of GECOM’s chairman, and that he has to wait until a GECOM statutory meeting is convened to get that approval. However, Jagdeo contended that he could simply pick up the phone and call the Chairman, indicating that the two stakeholders would like to meet, and ask whether he would approve of such a meeting.
Despite Lowenfield’s reluctant to meet, Jagdeo said, “I know that [the government] has had some discussions with GECOM on this matter.”
“So we have a huge hurdle now. And we have to, at some point in time, decide whether we want to pursue this charade or withdraw from it totally. Because somehow, the government is using all of these things – our willingness to engage and to be helpful and to reach out – to further delay the elections and the readiness of GECOM. So we are very concerned about that issue.”
The Leader of the Opposition was asked about the nature of the circumstances under which the PPP/C would allow an extension past the Constitutional deadline, for the holding of General Elections. He declined to answer.
“I’m not going to speculate about any extensions. This government has a way of spinning everything in their favour. They’re creating this air of normalcy, as though nothing happened on that night. They fell, and they acknowledged that the government fell. This is a lame duck caretaker government.”
Jagdeo said that he has informed key elements of the international community about the current situation, essentially telling them “We want to keep you apprised of some developments in Guyana that may dissolve our democracy.”
He also attempted to draw a contrast between the reaction of the coalition government and the PPP/C government in their responses to challenges to power. He compared the No-Confidence Motion which was brought against the PPP/C in 2014, to the recent motion.
“When the history of this country is written, we want to reflect how the PPP has behaved, in this period. We had behaved in a responsible manner. Our patience and our mature approach to this matter are because of our love for this country, and because we want to see things go well, so we can put this period behind us and move forward together for the development of the country.”
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