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Sunday, May 28, 2006

-- PPP/C charges
By Chamanlall Naipaul

THE governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is accusing the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) of creating uncertainty over the electoral process through the use of false speculation.

Mr Donald Ramotar, General Secretary of the PPP, the main partner in the governing alliance, at a press conference yesterday at the party’s Freedom House headquarters in Georgetown, lashed out at the PNCR, accusing it of peddling lies about the electoral process since 2001.

He charged that the PNCR was now merely repackaging the falsehoods.

“A myriad of false allegations has been made over the past few months for the purpose of stoking the fires of uncertainty over an electoral process which, with generous donor help, has developed an open scheme and structure for elections known to all”, Ramotar declared.

Among the deliberate false speculation, he said, was that the voters list would have more than 500,000 names which it was alleged was impossible having regard to the latest population census.

“This proved to be a lie. So has the assertion that the list is too large having regard to the census. This has also proved to be a lie. All of these lies are being repeated from 2001. They are not new, merely repackaged,” Ramotar charged.

According to him, the PNCR is now seeking to perpetrate the same hoax on Guyanese, which it did in 2001 through an identical argument, based on the same lie, and repeat it regularly.

He said the PNCR is claiming that the list has more people than it ought to have and is demanding a test this time around calling it house to house verification.

But the objective behind this, argued Ramotar, is to remove names from the voters list so as to disenfranchise supporters of the PPP/C.

“The PNCR’s objection to 40,000 names in 2001, in addition to hundreds of existing persons, including the brother of the then Chairman of the Elections Commission, Joe Singh, is an apt reminder and evidence of the PNCR’s nefarious plot,” he contended.

He claimed that the PNCR tried “every political trick” to discredit the 2001 list, first alleging that the database was corrupted. But, he noted, the Chairman of the Elections Commission had secured a copy of the database, and to satisfy the PNCR a foreign expert was recruited who verified that the database was intact debunking the “wild and unfounded” allegations.

Ramotar recollected that the foreign expert used the methodology of Cyclic Redundancy Checksum (CRC) generation technique which compared the database to a duplicate copy which was in the possession of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) after its audit in 2001.

He added that for the purposes of data validation, the CRC technique is almost flawless with a margin of error of 0.000000000232831.

However, according to Ramotar, the PNCR was not satisfied and brought its own expert from Canada. This, he said, resulted in help being sought from the international community which concluded in the presence of the expert brought by the PNCR that there was no evidence of the security of the database being breached.

“Having failed in those campaigns, the PNCR then claimed that the list had duplicate names all of whom will vote for the PPP in the elections. They persisted in this false claim even though the 2001 list had less than 100 proved duplicates. Unfortunately, GECOM succumbed to what had become PNCR threats and blackmail and agreed to an expensive fingerprint test which will prove there are no significant number of duplicates,” Ramotar asserted.

In addition, he said the some 70,000 persons who registered or effected transactions during the period of continuous registration were subjected to house to house verification.

He added that with the current claims and objection period which has been increased by 12 days, political parties have the opportunity to make house to house or other checks to object to persons whose names ought not to be on the voters list.

“The more than 40,000 objections made by the PNCR in 2001, though wrongly, clearly demonstrate that the PNCR has the capacity to test the list and object to names if they feel that the names are wrongly included on the list. This is the function of all political parties in all democratic countries. The PNCR does not want to do any political work. It wants to be pampered by GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) while sowing confusion and creating false perceptions,” Ramotar offered.

Apart from these verification measures, he identified several others that will be in place on voting day to prevent persons whose names are not on the list from voting.

These include:
* the voter’s name, identification number and other particulars must be on the voters list

* the voter must produce an identification card or approved picture identification to be allowed to vote

* the voter’s picture will be printed on the voters list

* the voter’s finger will be stained with indelible ink after voting

* each contesting party will be entitled to have a representative in the polling station

* counting of ballots will be done at the place of poll in the presence of party representatives who would have the opportunity to sign the statements of poll

Ramotar assured that the PPP/C is prepared to discuss additional measures on voting day to further ensure that it will be impossible for any unauthorised person to vote.

“The PPP has nothing to gain from irregular elections. The PNCR, on the other hand, is a political party which carries the burden of a discredited past, with no constructive policies to offer its supporters. It has noticed that the PPP/C is attracting ever greater support due to the government’s creativity, ingenuity and capacity in solving the problems of all Guyanese in a fair, balanced and even handed manner,” Ramotar declared.

Asked whether his party was among those which had written GECOM requesting an extension of the claims and objections period, Ramotar categorically said that this was not so.

“I do not know which party or parties wrote to GECOM but definitely the PPP was not one that did so,” he reiterated.

On the issue of how the extension could affect the timeline of the elections, Ramotar said his party is in disagreement but this was left to GECOM.

Health Minister Dr Leslie Rasammy, who shared the press conference with Ramotar, explained that the 12-day extension would not necessarily affect the timeline of the elections, as the original schedule catered for 20 flexible days for any slippages that may occur.

Further questioned whether measures are in place to deal with a situation if GECOM cannot meet the elections deadline, Ramsammy replied in the affirmative but said the government is not prepared at this stage to disclose them.