By Shikema Dey
“We were so disturbed when we saw it because we wanted to know how they got a copy of a death certificate for someone who they are not related to.”
Those were the sentiments expressed by the grand-daughter of Chitnandani Ramdass, the woman who died on June 6, 2015 that the APNU+AFC Coalition claimed voted at the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The claim was made by APNU+AFC counting agent, Ganesh Mahipaul, in a Guyana Chronicle article complete with an image of a copy of the woman’s death certificate as ‘evidence’ of her voting at the March 2 polls.
The Coalition alleged that serial number 257 (Ramdass) was ticked off on the list indicating that the person voted although he/she was deceased.
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, debunking the claim.
The woman’s grand-daughter told this publication that family members were shocked when they saw the copy of the death certificate in the media because they did not issue permission to the party to obtain a copy at no time.
That copy was obtained on January 30, 2020 while the original death certificate was issued to the family on September 6, 2017.
“We didn’t know nothing about that” she told this newspaper, adding “when we saw the death certificate in the papers, is then we know that they claiming that the dead person voted or someone voted for her and all of a sudden, they put up this death certificate.”
The allegation that someone voted using her dead grandmother’s name, according to the grand-daughter, would not be possible. “So you mean to tell me that they had agents there and saw somebody voting for a dead person and you sat down there on elections day and you didn’t object? What sense does that make?”
Coalition Executive, Amna Ally, disclosed that the party is in possession of “countless” death certificates. She was questioned as to how
these sensitive records were accessed.
She told the media that that they can be easily purchased at the Guyana Registry Office (GRO).
Ally said too “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.”
A provision in the law under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act also points to this.
That law says “Everyone shall be entitled, on payment of the fees prescribed by the Minister by order, to search the indices between the hours of ten o’ clock in the morning and four o’clock in the afternoon of every day except on public holidays and Saturdays, and to have extracted therefrom a sealed certificate of birth in Form 4 or a sealed certificate of death in Form 5, as the case may be.”
But according to former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, 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.”
When the provision under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act allowing public access to the death certificates was pointed out to Nandlall, he argued that “implied repeal” would overrule such.
Implied repeal is a concept in constitutional theory which states that where an Act of Parliament conflicts with an earlier one, the later Act takes precedence and the conflicting parts of the earlier Act become legally inoperable.
“If there are two acts that are inconsistent, the one that was passed subsequently or later in time is said to have overruled the other one,” Nandlall told Kaieteur News. Additionally, he noted that he would be advising the family on how to proceed legally on the matter.
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