Sep 19, 2022 Letters
Clement J. Rohee’s letter, which appeared in both SN and KN under the title “APNU+AFC’s demands should be considered dead in the water”, omitted critical facts and thus rendered it blinkered and hypocritical. His assertions merely repeated those of his party and its flatterers in the private sector.
The APNU+AFC demands to which Rohee referred are the call for a clean voters list (that is, one cleansed of the over 200,000 names of persons who either died locally/abroad or have permanently migrated), the use of biometrics while voting (to eliminate voter impersonation by confirming that a voter is who he/she says he/she is), and that the Chair of GECOM must resign (in light of her outright refusal to even appear impartial—let alone, to actually so act—and to work towards raising GECOM’s organisational efficiency and public trust).
Clement J. Rohee intentionally omitted the following facts. FIRST, the public would be aware by now that it was Mr. Rohee’s party, the PPP, after its defeat in 2015 that first loudly demanded a clean list, biometrics, and a new GECOM chair. By now, most interested citizens would have read the SN report (“PPP wants fresh voters list among other electoral reforms” – SN 2015/10/06) to satisfy themselves of the PPP’s hypocrisy on this matter. Of course, the PPP’s call for the GECOM Chair “to go” was directed to then Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally.
Moreover, the PPP had formally agreed within GECOM for periodic H2H registration. As such, it endorsed the budgeting by Finance Minister Jordan of GYD$3 billion for the next round of house-to-house registration.
Of course, with the passage of the ‘No Confidence Motion (NCM)’, the PPP shifted gears and dropped its demands. Rushing elections became its priority. But even if one understood its post-NCM haste in 2018 for new elections, those elections have been held. We have reverted to the normal 5-year election cycle. What then has happened to the PPP’s pre-2018 demands for a new list and biometrics? Why has it changed its mind, spewing self-righteousness?
SECOND, Rohee and his party continue to duck the inconvenient truth that the major Election Observer Missions at our 2020 election (CARICOM, the OAS, the Carter Centre, and the EU) have each separately called for a new voter registry and/or a total revision of Guyana’s voter registration laws. The Caricom Observers, for instance, emphasized “the urgent need for the total re-registration of all voters in Guyana.” And, in case, we didn’t get that, they added “It therefore behoves the Commission to create a new voter registry especially given the suspicion that the 2020 register was bloated, a suspicion which is not without merit.”
The OAS, in turn, advocated that GECOM should undertake “a House-to-House registration exercise at the earliest opportunity upon completion of the election and periodically thereafter.” The EU team spoke of the “clear limitations in the ability of the existing continuous registration system to maintain an up-to-date, accurate register.” The PPP and its small special interests are the last remaining objectors to a clean voters list.
THIRD, the Chief Justice’s ruling in August 2019 that the National Register of Registrants Database could not be dumped to accommodate fresh house-to-house registration is a surmountable legal hurdle. The required constitutional and statutory amendments could be made as was done several times in our recent history. For instance, many would recall that in 1990, then President Desmond Hoyte agreed to postpone elections to facilitate constitutional and other amendments which saw the enactment of the Carter formula (as Article 161 of the constitution) and, for the first time, counting at the place of poll. With good faith, the political parties can agree and pass the necessary amendments to facilitate credible elections that can reflect the democratic will of the people and win their confidence.
FOUR, not many persons know (or, in some cases, dare to know) that of the several thousands of names APNU+AFC submitted to GECOM as persons for whom votes were cast although they were out of the jurisdiction on election day, over 75% has been confirmed by the Chief Immigration Officer. What does this mean? It proves voter impersonation on a scale that calls the credibility of the 2020 election results into question. On receipt of this information from Immigration, one would have expected GECOM to order—to use an analogy from commercial aviation—the emergency grounding of all flights to review the entire situation. Nothing of the sort occurred. Instead, it seems that the Chair of GECOM discontinued sending the other APNU+AFC submissions for verification and aborted the investigation. Meanwhile, Rohee’s PPP was issuing all sorts of threats to challenge in court any probe into voter impersonation.
The evidence therefore is starkly before us that a 200,000-strong bloated list is not just a potential threat to electoral integrity. It has already been exploited for electoral gain. If the PPP has nothing to hide, as it claimed, then it should vote to allow GECOM to complete the verification and investigation of voter impersonation of both migrants and the dead. It should then agree to a clean list and biometrics should the findings turn out to be significant as the indications are.
FIVE, in light all the systemic, administrative, legal, technological, and operational problems exposed during the 2020 recount, how could the GECOM Chair continue to believe that she must do nothing other than helplessly sit in a runaway train speeding towards an impending election fiasco? Is she fit for purpose is a very appropriate question.
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