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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

PNCR says GECOM head siding

with Govt nominated commissioners

Surujbally claims negative remarks make
him target for violence

By Gordon French

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally, has denied claims by members of the PNCR that he has conducted himself in a partisan manner.

Speaking to Kaieteur News on Monday, Dr. Surujbally said since his assumption to office he has tried to carry out his functions as Chairman in an optimal, straightforward and decent manner.

The PNCR, at a press conference held last Thursday, stated that Dr Surujbally's behaviour over the life of this Commission suggested that if the six nominated Commissioners couldn't agree then Dr Surujbally saw his role as sticking with the government-nominated Commissioners and that cannot be the case.

“I know that I have absolutely no preference for any political party and no prejudice against any party, irrespective of the invectives and the type of politicking that party might wish to engage in,” the GECOM Chairman said.

The Commission, headed by Dr. Surujbally, comprises three members from the opposition parties and three from the government, and has been tasked with delivering free, fair and transparent elections that is acceptable by all stakeholders. PNCR Executive Member James McAllister said, “We expect the Chairman to be impartial and for the Chairman to deal with issues based on merit, but it is clear that the Chairman is partisan.”

Dr. Surujbally believes that such defamation is not in consonance with any serious code of conduct for political parties, and it will eventually not serve any practitioner of the art of vilification in good stead. He noted that any demonising and besmirching of his character by any political party must be interpreted within the context of politicking.

“One cannot dismiss the consideration that the constant barrage of insult and tarnishing me with all sorts of negative characteristics make me vulnerable and an easy target for those who might interpret the lambasting as a green light to inflict injury on my person,” Dr. Surujbally said.

However, the GECOM Chairman has vowed not to quit his post. Kaieteur News understands that over several months security for the Chairman has been upgraded.

Parris withdraws from GECOM

Opposition-nominated Commissioner Haslyn Parris has once again withdrawn from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), stating that he refuses to participate in a system which continues to mislead stakeholders on the electoral process.

Kaieteur News understands that Parris made this announcement yesterday during GECOM's statutory meeting.

According to a source close to GECOM, Parris told the meeting that he had participated in a system which misled President Bharrat Jagdeo and the donor community that general elections could have been held by August 31, 2006.

He noted also that Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodoo was authorised by GECOM to certify and produce the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) and this went ahead without any checks being done of the PLE.

The Commissioner pointed out, too, that GECOM decided over the weekend that the Claims and Objections period would be extended and announcements were made, but the newspapers were at the same time reminding the electorate of the original time frame.

This was another instance in which GECOM misled the people of Guyana , the source said Parris told the meeting yesterday.

On the issue of verification of the 2001 Official List of Electors, two PPP-nominated Commissioners maintained their position not to support house-to-house verification in any form – 100% or partial.

However, the source told Kaieteur News that one PPP-nominated Commissioner noted that the opposition continues to clamour for verification and indicated that he was prepared to listen to proposals given that certain conditions were met.

This newspaper understands that the Commissioner requested that the opposition state what methodology would be used for the verification; ensure that whatever methodology used must not interfere with the elections timeline; it must be stated what law will be used to remove the ‘not found' persons on the list and the objective of the verification process must be stated.

Opposition-nominated Commissioners Parris, Robert Williams, and Lloyd Joseph had announced their decision to withdraw from GECOM on April 15, 2006.

They had cited the style of leadership currently being used by GECOM Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally as the reason and the modalities being imposed by him.

But the PPP-appointed Commissioners pointed out that Dr. Surujbally's leadership style had not changed over the years and, according to them, the opposition Commissioners were comfortable with the outcome of that leadership style then.

The latest rift is seen as a further wedge being driven in the process.

The next statutory meeting of GECOM is set for tomorrow.

Kaieteur News