By Shikema Dey
Chitnandani Ramdass, a Region Two woman who died on June 6, 2015 and whom the APNU+AFC Coalition alleged to have been ticked off as having voted at the March 2, 2020 polls has in fact not voted according to evidence seen and reviewed by Kaieteur News.
The claim was initially made in a Guyana Chronicle article on May 20 with the headline “Coalition provides proof of dead persons voting”, where the party presented a death certificate of Chitnandani Ramdass, terming it ‘evidence’ of her having voted at the March 2 polls.
APNU+AFC counting agent, Ganesh Mahipaul during an exclusive interview told the Chronicle “From ballot box 210, serial number 257 was registered as 81-year-old Chitnandani Ramdass, but the party has a death certificate confirming that Ramdass died on June 6, 2015.”
PNC Executive Amna Ally had told the media that the party “searched every nook and cranny” to gather information in order to compile their list with persons who migrated from Guyana and those who died. Mahipaul also confirmed that the Coalition through their ‘field operations’ receive second hand information which is used as the basis for their claims.
Throughout the National Recount, ongoing at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, the Coalition claimed to have in their possession ‘evidence’ to support the allegations made that ‘countless’ instances of dead persons being recorded as voting exclusively in People’s Progressive Party (PPP) strongholds and ‘countless’ instances of persons who have long migrated from Guyana and who were not in Guyana on Election Day being recorded as voting.
Despite the string of allegations, no credible evidence was produced by Amna Ally to back up the claims by the party. Additionally, Mahipaul when pressed to provide evidence of the claims, on the same day he had spoke to Chronicle about Ramdass had told reporters, “I am not claiming death, I don’t make the claim, I objected to migration…I don’t have access to immigration record.”
The evidence debunking the claims made by the Coalition, posted to Facebook by PPP candidate Deodat Indar, showed the observation report for Station Four counting ballots from box #2107 from polling station, 221223A, at Mariah’s Hall Nursery School. The Coalition alleged that serial number 257 (Ramdass) was ticked off on the list indicating that the person voted although he/she was a deceased person. An official copy of the polling station’s Official List of Electors (OLE) commonly known as the Pink List, showed however, that the woman’s name was not ticked as voted, which meant that she did not cast her ballot nor did anyone vote in her place.
The question of how Ramdass’ name was on the list despite dying in 2015 may be linked to a fault in the system used to update the National Register of Registrants.
The claims and objections period before an election allows citizens and stakeholders to question entries on a Preliminary List of Electors, a database of persons who would be 18 and older at the proposed date of elections, and hence eligible to vote. Individuals who have had changes in their particulars, including addresses and names can also utilise the period to make the necessary adjustments.
It also provides the opportunity for objections to particulars in the PLE, which includes the removal of dead persons, like Ms. Ramdass, from the list but this system is not always accurate. GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward explained that the Commission had a system in place where the Guyana Registry Office (GRO) would supply them with monthly reports of all deaths within the reporting period.
“The accuracy at which those reports reach us,” said Ward, “is something I will not be able to pronounce on but we do have a system in place where the GRO provides us with a monthly death report.”
She continued, “We also have cases too where there are persons who may die but their deaths are not registered at all or possibly not registered at that time so we also have to consider those factors.”
It was Coalition Executive Amna Ally, when asked how the party got access to the ‘countless’ death certificates in their possession, who stated that they can be easily purchased at the Guyana Registry Office. Ally told the media “Anybody can access a death certificate…I think what you have to do is to pay about $300 and you can access a death certificate.”
According to former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, however, for the Coalition to have possession of ‘countless’ death certificates would be in direct conflict with the law.
Nandlall cited Section 33 (3) of the Access to Information Act 2011 of Guyana, which states that, “A document referred to in subsection (1) shall not be released without the notarized consent of the person who is the subject of the information in the document. Pursuant to subsection (6), in the case of a deceased person, only his next of kin can give consent to access.
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