The AFC has received reports that more fake birth certificates and other personal identification documents have surfaced in Region 9 (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo). Some of the reports were submitted by GECOM scrutineers and other workers conducting house-to-house (HtH) registration. This exercise in all administrative regions came to a halt yesterday, the end of August.
In addition to these false documents, the scrutineers also found a number of Guyana National Identification Cards in the possession of non-nationals. Further investigations revealed that there are no source documents in existence, e.g. birth certificates, passports or naturalisation documents, to prove that these persons are Guyanese citizens.
The same thing occurred in a few villages in the North Rupununi. Fake birth certificates with no official signatures, no valid numbers, and most of all, missing the official seal of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, were presented during the Registration exercise.
That was not all. The Scrutineers also collected birth certificates that were obviously tampered with, documents with names that the records did not have, and others showing signs that the information was changed. Guyanese Birth Certificates are hand written which make them easily identifiable, and the fakes easy to spot.
A few persons who held the fake documents allegedly said that they obtained their Guyana ID Cards “many years ago” after presenting the same tampered birth certificates.
An officer at the Coalition’s Lethem office was not surprised by reports about these fake documents because she knows its history. She said that this issue of Fake Birth Certificates is a regular practice in the region, and it is done through a certain Party office. The process, she said, bypasses official channels, i.e. the Government Department that issues certificates of Births, Deaths and Marriages to every citizen.
Corroborating this was a Justice of the Peace (JP) in the Region. The JP said that many people visit his office to transact business with fake birth certificates. He related that one woman approached him with a fake birth certificate. When she realised he was suspicious she allegedly admitted knowing that the certificate was not ‘legal’, and informed him where it was acquired from.
The JP said, “Well, across the region I have come across birth certificates that don’t have the stamp of the Registrar General’s Office. We try to question the (holders) and they say they got help from a certain party branch office. The JP said that he knows of a few persons who have no birth certificates yet they have Guyana’s National Identification Cards. Many are foreigners who may not be naturalized Guyanese. He is sure that Guyana’s proximity to the Brazilian Takutu border makes the situation more prevalent.
STRANGE FACES AT CERTAIN HOMES
In addition to the allegations of a certain party facilitating the acquisition of fake documents, stories are continuing to surface about ‘busloads of non-nationals’ being transported into Lethem and nearby communities. One Scrutineer said: “Strange faces at various homes are claiming to reside there, and these claims are supported by the known occupants”. She told a story of visiting one home in which nine (9) persons with ID cards presented themselves to be registered, but each of them had a different surname.
We already knew that similar incidents occurred during the pre-Local Government Election (LGE) period when people who don’t live in Lethem were listed as residents, and they were able to vote in the LGE.
GECOM has promised to investigate the reports and we all hope that the investigations will be thorough; that the holders of fake ID cards and birth certificates will be dealt with within the confines of Guyana’s laws.
We intend to utilise the Claims and Objections period to ensure that these citizen complaints, the reports made by the HtH Scrutineers, the Regional Officers and other concerned persons are properly addressed. We also have to make sure that the fake documents are not used, and ultimately do not deprive Guyanese citizens from voting for the chance to live the Good Life in a growing environment.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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