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The PNCR Perspective

Why is the PPP/C afraid of House-to-House verification (HHV)?

It appears that the PPP/C does not want a free and fair election in Guyana . Its continued resistance to house-to-house verification (HHV) reflects its true motives. HHV is necessary to produce a clean voters list, but Freedom House has danced the merry-go-round on the issue. With increasing desperation, it has put forward a mass of excuses and deceits to block house-to-house verification of the 2001 Official List of Electors (OLE). As desperate people are prone to do, the PPP/C keeps adding to the catalog of excuses.

Let's put three of them under the microscope. One of the PPP/C's favorite excuses is that verification does not only mean house-to-house and can be done through other mechanisms. Well, the PPP/C must convince the nation which method other than HHV can ensure the tens of thousands of persons who are no longer eligible to vote do not end up on any voters list. Claims and objections, the PPP/C asserts, can clean the list. The Claims and objections process was never designed to handle, and cannot handle, such a vast volume of ineligibles. It is a fine-tuning mechanism, not a tool for the massive open-heart surgery necessary to produce a clean list. Like everybody else, the Jagdeo PPP understands this. So why does it fear HHV?

Freedom House also grumbles that the call for HHV is an attempt by the opposition parties to delay the election. The facts speak differently. HHV was first proposed by GECOM itself since 2004. The PNCR and other opposition parties, as well as the opposition-nominated GECOM commissioners, immediately agreed to the proposal and have continued to push for it. In 2005, GECOM prepared a plan of operation and was allocated money to conduct HHV.

In our party's view, the GECOM chairman and the three PPP/C-nominated commissioners dragged their feet on the proposal. We feel that the GECOM chairman, in particular, orchestrated to keep the issue as often as possible off the agenda at GECOM meetings. Notwithstanding the foot dragging, the joint opposition has already signaled its willingness to support an extension of the term of office of the government to allow GECOM the time to conduct HHV. The PPP/C has so far spurned the offer. We must ask again, why is it afraid of HHV?

Another PPP/C washed-out excuse is the claim that there is no law to deal with the “not founds”, i.e., those persons whom the GECOM field teams would not find if a house-to-house verification of the 2001 OLE were to be conducted. By rights and by practice, GECOM should have been creating a new national register of registrants in time for the 2006 election. A new register is empty until you begin to add names of persons who qualify. For this occasion, the new register should be filled by two categories of people: the first would be those new registrants who were captured during the continuous registration exercise. The second category would be those whose names are on the 2001 OLE. To get on the register, the first category of persons had to prove their existence (persons had to show up in person at GECOM centres), identity (persons had to provide an acceptable form of identification) and residency (GECOM visited their homes). For the second category of persons (those on the 2001 OLE) to be added to the 2006 register, the law and commonsense dictate that they too must be checked to confirm whether five years later they are still alive and living in Guyana. Those who are will get their names added to the register. Those who are not cannot be added to the register. This is no brain teaser. Guyana has travelled this road before. Both in the 1996/97 national registration exercise and in the 2000/2001 photographic registration exercise, the names of persons were added only after their existence, identity and residence were verified. In normal registration or in special registration (which HHV really is), the main objective is to add to the register the names of persons who are eligible. We believe that removing names or “not founds” was on the two last occasions and for this occasion a non-issue, a trick to fool the unwary.

The PPP, of course, understands this. Yet, it continues to insist that the 2001 OLE must be simply dumped onto the 2006 register, without any systematic sanitization. Why is it afraid of HHV? Why doesn't the PPP/C want a clean voters list? The PPP/C believes it will not form the next government. It has reasoned that the PNCR, especially in an alliance with other parties, is more than likely to win the 2006 election. The PPP/C has for some time now arrived at this conclusion. Its own polls and feedback from its strongholds paint a discouraging picture. Its traditional support base is soft on the cup. The PNCR believes that Freedom House therefore has certain tactics it plans to use. First, Freedom House plans to provoke the PNCR into street protests and thereby drive up the political temperature. With increased tensions, the PPP/C hopes it can, in the usual way, consolidate its traditional base. That strategy has failed badly.

We also believe that the PPPC also plans to use a padded voters list, an unverified voters list. The PPP/C knows that tens of thousands of names from the 2001 OLE would not make it onto a new national register if HHV were to be conducted. This scares the heck out of Freedom House. A clean and verified list considerably reduces any chance for election-day skullduggery. That is why the PNCR and other opposition parties have dug their heels in and continue to demand house-to-house verification. That is why we are heartened that the people of Guyana support our position. HHV is supported by the law and by the commitments GECOM itself made to the parties. We will continue to insist: no election without HHV.

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