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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Elections date not yet decided - GECOM opposition commissioners

The Commissioners representing parliamentary Opposition parties on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have stated that no position has been taken on the date to hold elections this year.

This statement was made yesterday by the Commissioners at a press conference held at the Water Chris on Waterloo Street .

Those Commissioners at the press conference were Robert Williams, Haslyn Parris, and Lloyd Joseph.

Referring to an article appearing in the Stabroek News on February 11, Parris said the report suggested that elections will be held in July, 2006.

“The GECOM Chairman advised the PSC that he remained confident that the preparations for the elections scheduled to be held in July were on schedule,” the report read.

According to Parris, the only person who is authorised to announce the elections date is the Head of State, based on the advice of GECOM that it is prepared to hold the polls.

He said the reality is that July 17 has been set as a deadline by GECOM to determine whether it is ready to hold elections.

Parris stated that GECOM is awaiting the Joint International Technical Assessors (JITA) to conduct a revision of the elections management project, to determine whether its implementation is on schedule.

The revision will make a pronouncement on whether July 17 deadline will be met, he said.

Commissioner Williams informed that there are two JITAs, funded by the donor community and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

“JITA is to alert all and sundry whether elections can be held within the period estimated in the elections management project,” he said.

Williams stated that GECOM has received the third assessment by JITA dated February 6 which will be discussed at a GECOM statutory meeting today.

He revealed that as of February 3, ninety-four percent of the preparations for elections have been achieved.

On the issue of verification, Parris said the elections cannot be held if the voters' list is flawed.

He stated that for the list to be sanitized, there has to be agreement on the methodology to be used.

The Claims and Objections period must not be labeled as the point in the electoral process when citizens could raise queries, he stated, as this period is part of the citizens' rights.

Instead, he said, the onus is on GECOM to ensure that there is a proper list to conduct free and transparent elections.

“GECOM has to accept that it is responsible to ensure there is a proper list. The Claims and Objections period is a right of the citizens.”

Parris related that, from discussions held with the political Opposition parties, their main concerns about the voters list were that it may have multiple registrants, non-existent persons, and persons without residence qualification for voting at the elections.

He stated that for these concerns to be addressed, GECOM must devise methods to carry out tests to ensure the list is not flawed.

Parris clarified that the Elections Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has been approached by GECOM for assistance with the list.

EOJ will use the 2001 Official List of Electors as the basis to check to see whether there were multiple registrants.

Parris pointed out that the EOJ cannot “guard against multiple registration” as was stated in the SN article since this would have already happened as it is the 2001 list which was being checked.

When EOJ apprises GECOM of the multiple registrants on the 2001 list, if any, then GECOM would have to decide on the tolerance level to apply on the multiple registration, depending on if the multiple registration would have had any effect on the outcome of the elections.

The contract with EOJ has not yet been concluded, as was indicated in the SN article, as the financial arrangements were not yet worked out.

On the issue of house-to-house verification which the SN article said is not an option, Parris pointed out that that is the only way to verify the existence of electors.

He noted that there are 400,000 plus names on the list and the question would be if it is feasible to visit each household to verify electors.

Perhaps sample lots could be taken of areas where concerns pointed to, he said.

He, however, declared that households will have to be visited in the verification exercise.

He insisted that the methodology, which is still to be agreed upon, must be transparent.

The electorate will have to know how GECOM is getting the information and how it could confirm that a person whose name is on the list does not exist.

Commissioner Joseph told reporters that they are in a situation where delicate choices will have to be made in a process which will affect the life of the nation.

“I will not participate in something that is a mistake,” he said. “We're not dealing with the issue from a partisan approach.”

The constitutionally due deadline to hold elections is August 4.

Kaieteur News