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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
From Guyana Chronicle...
Elections can be held by Aug 4

THE United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union yesterday declared they are satisfied GECOM can hold elections by the August 4 constitutional deadline.

The assessment by the major Western aid donors to Guyana came amid claims by the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and its parliamentary opposition allies that the commission may not be able to run off the elections by August 4.

Postponing the elections could trigger a constitutional crisis and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the main partner in the governing PPP/Civic (PPP/C) alliance is insisting that GECOM can meet the deadline.

The U.S., Canada, the UK and the EU are major sources of funding for GECOM (the Guyana Elections Commission) and the electoral process and they issued a joint statement yesterday saying the August 4 deadline can be met.

They said they are satisfied with GECOM’s technical capability and capacity to deliver free and fair elections within the constitutional timeframe.

The joint statement came from the international signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the support of the next general elections in Guyana - which comprise the Canadian High Commission, British High Commission, United States Embassy and European Commission Delegation in Guyana.

The statement said: “The International Signatories are satisfied that the GECOM Secretariat has the technical capability and capacity, and has received in a timely manner all the technical and financial support needed from the Government of Guyana and the international community to deliver free and fair elections within the constitutional timeframe.

The International Signatories to the Elections MoU urge all political parties, in the interest of Guyana, to work with GECOM to find timely responses to the political challenges of holding free, fair, fully accepted and peaceful elections in Guyana.”

The donors noted that the basis of their assistance is set out in the MoU jointly agreed between the Government of Guyana, GECOM and the international signatories on 20 July 2005. The signatories committed to the holding of free and fair elections that are in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana and other relevant laws of Guyana which embrace international standards, the statement said.

“The support provided by the International Signatories to the election process in Guyana is guided, inter alia, by the Inter-American Democratic Charter adopted by all OAS members in September 2001. (http://www.oas.org/OASpage/eng/Documents/Democractic_Charter.htm

In the MoU, GECOM committed to ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to adhere to the requirements of the Constitution in its preparations for elections”, the statement added.

Bomb scare fails to derail GECOM session
A BOMB scare at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) headquarters yesterday failed to derail a crucial session of specialists and commission members on honing plans for elections by the August 4 constitutional deadline, sources said.

GECOM, in a statement, said its routine operations were disrupted for more than an hour yesterday afternoon after an anonymous telephone caller said a bomb had been placed in the secretariat building in Kingston, Georgetown.

The call came as GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, senior secretariat staff, three commissioners who volunteered to attend, and members of the Joint International Technical Assessors (JITA) were discussing a draft revised plan on holding the elections.

The commission said the team moved to another location to resume their discussions.

GECOM Public Relations Officer, Mr Vishnu Persaud said the meeting with Surujbally was “interrupted briefly in order that the participants could remove to an alternative location where the meeting continued”.

He said the chairman and others were at the time “engaged in strategic discussions pertaining to the development of a revised electoral plan that could be commonly agreed upon”.

Persaud said the routine operations of GECOM and its secretariat were interrupted “as a direct result of an anonymous call” to its switchboard reporting that a bomb had been planted on the premises.

Upon receipt of the call around 14:05 h, he said the buildings were immediately evacuated and the matter reported to the police who quickly responded, dispatching a bomb expert to the scene. Persaud said the expert conducted a comprehensive search of the premises but no bomb was found.

He said the “all clear” was given at about 15:20 h and routine operations at the GECOM resumed immediately after.

The Guyana Chronicle understands that the “full commission” will be meeting today to discuss the revised plan for holding the elections.

GECOM has not set a new date for elections and is determined to have the polls by the constitutionally due date of August 4 this year, sources said.

This point, the Guyana Chronicle understands, was stressed at a statutory meeting of the commission Tuesday when it unanimously agreed that a proposed revised plan that gave a new date was only an unofficial draft internal document.

The main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and other parliamentary opposition parties went public late Friday with the proposed draft `revised plan’, arguing that GECOM should urgently brief all stakeholders on the development.

But sources said GECOM commissioners on Tuesday stated “categorically” that the draft proposed plan was meant “for the commissioners’ eyes only”.

This newspaper was told the plan was never meant to have reached the public domain, especially since it was scheduled for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.

The leaking of the draft proposed `revised plan’ by the PNCR and its parliamentary allies, raising concern about a constitutional crisis from postponing the elections, triggered statements from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) calling on GECOM to ensure it meets the constitutional deadline of August 4.

The main partner in the governing PPP/Civic (PPP/C) alliance insisted that GECOM can meet that date and said it should pull out all stops to stay on course for elections by August 4.

The commission yesterday also dispelled rumours that suggest it ‘would, could or has’ extended the Continuous Registration period, which ended on March 19.

“GECOM is receipt of reports of rumours that the first cycle of Continuous Registration which commenced on 17 October, 2005 and concluded on 19 March, 2006 (i) would be extended; (ii) could be extended; and (iii) has been extended,” Persaud said in a separate statement.

“GECOM has no intention of, nor is it giving consideration to extending the just concluded cycle of Continuous Registration”, he said.

The commission said any such extension would have negative implications for it to hold the elections in accordance with its election plan. It, however, indicated that the next cycle of Continuous Registration will commence after the upcoming national and regional elections.

The commencement and closing dates for the next cycle will be gazetted and advertised as was done for the first cycle.

In acknowledgement of the concern that many persons who would be 18 years old at the time of the elections, but who did not apply for registration during the just concluded cycle of Continuous Registration, the commission assured that such persons will get the opportunity to apply for registration during the mandatory Claims and Objections exercise which would commence shortly.

GECOM said the commencement and closure of Claims and Objections as well as the countrywide venues where this activity will be conducted will be adequately advertised.