Nov 28, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Some of our members were demanding that we should comment on the proposals to amend the Representation of the People Act while others felt that, by its Constitution, the Guyana Consumers Association (GCA), cannot have any involvement with politics and indeed, practicing politicians are precluded from holding office in the Association though they may be ordinary members. It was however felt that commenting on proposals to make the Act more in keeping with the needs of Guyanese society was a national duty and, in any case, this transcended politics since all the political parties in the country for the last 20 years have had some complaint about the workings of the Act and wished parts of it amended. Further, all political parties and all citizens are invited to make their inputs to it.
For over 20 years there have been complaints about the Act, especially after elections, but no Government or political party did anything to improve it. Now, consumers and other ordinary citizens as well as political parties and NGOs should seize the opportunity and make their inputs.
The consultation would last for six weeks and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Gail Teixeira, has ensured that all the main stakeholders including the political parties have received hard copies of the Law and proposed amendments and has posted them on the Ministry’s website. Those making proposals and comments may do so via email, posts on the Ministry’s social media page or even by letter. Citizens are reminded that this is not an exercise in Constitutional Reform but merely the reform of an important statute.
We give examples of amendments which have been proposed: Region Four where the capital Georgetown is situated and which has a population almost equal to the population of the other Regions together, is big and unwieldy, has put undue pressures on election officials and has always generated more problems than other Regions at election times, will be divided into four manageable sub-regions – East Bank Demerara, East Coast Demerara, North Georgetown and South Georgetown.
Another amendment is precise instructions of how tabulation is to be done and who would be present and the part they would play. Statements of Poll must be used for the tabulation and as soon as they are prepared, they must be placed on the GECOM website and pasted conspicuously outside the polling stations and sent to the Chief Elections Officer and the Chairman of GECOM with immediacy. This will ensure transparency and the citizenry being aware of the results.
Another amendment addresses the locating of polling stations. The polling stations would be located in accordance with a number of criteria so that they would not be too far away from where electors live, would not be in muddy or impassable surroundings and would be in localities which are safe for all electors. The object of this amendment is to ensure that electors cast their votes in comfort and safety.
The GECOM staff and other elections officers would be thoroughly trained and issued manuals with full conformity with the Laws. This will allow them to function with accuracy, ease and without confused tension.
One of the most important proposed amendments is a review of the penalties to be imposed on election officers who have engaged themselves in infractions of the Law. Election officers receive salaries and allowances which are among the highest in the Public Service and this is so because of the fiduciary responsibility and integrity they must bring to their jobs and the fact that they ultimately hold in their hands the safety and wellbeing of the state which they could easily impair by engaging in illegal behaviour. As an example, we will give the proposed penalties for an errant Chief Executive Officer.
If the CEO of GECOM places false Statements of Poll on the website, he/she would have committed an offence and could be fined $10 million and imprisoned for life. He/she is responsible for submitting the final report of the nationwide vote to the Elections Commission so that they could declare the winner of the elections and if he/she does so outside the established timeframe or with falsified data, he/she could be fined $10 million and imprisoned for life.
Minister Teixeira pointed out that the amendments proposed would favour no political party but would make the electoral machinery stronger. She also enjoined citizens to make their proposals and comments: “We want people to look at those amendments and see what they feel and ask themselves ‘are the recommendations sufficient and are the areas in the elections process from registration through to proclamation adequate?'”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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