first_imgThe Guyana Election CommissionWith house-to-house registration set to commence on June 1, 2019, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has temporarily halted the process. The elections body held out that the exercise was mandatory before the next General and Regional Elections are held.The delay in the commencement of the exercise was confirmed by Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the elections body, Yonlanda Ward, during a telephone interview with Guyana Times“Initially, the plan was to commence on June 1. We anticipate that (house-to-house registration) will commence in June; however, at a little later timeline for which I don’t have an exact date as yet as the Commission is still deliberating on that,” Ward explained.The issue was first raised by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo at a press conference on Thursday.“I asked the Executive Secretary (Zulficar Mustapha) to confirm with (Chief Elections Officer Keith) Lowenfield and Lowenfield has confirmed that they’re not starting when they initially had announced it would start,” Jagdeo told media operatives.However, when asked, the reason behind the delay, the GECOM’s Public Relations Officer was unable to say. “No, I don’t have a reason. That is a matter that is being discussed at the moment,” she said.Earlier in the week, after the statutory meeting, Government-nominated Commisisoner Charles Corbin had disclosed that there were some procurement issues at the election secretariat.“(The Secretariat) did indicate that they did have some issues and delays with respect to some procurement which may cause some delay in moving forward,” Corbin had indicated following Tuesday’s statutory meeting.Nevertheless, Ward told this newspaper on Thursday that all the training of staff required for the exercise has been completed and they are now in the process of tidying up staff placements.GECOM is forging ahead with house-to-house registration as the country awaits a ruling from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the December 2018 passage of the Opposition’s No-confidence Motion.The Trinidad-based regional court is currently deliberating on several appeals asking it to overturn the Guyana Court of Appeal’s March ruling which invalidated the passage of the motion of no confidence against the coalition Government. The CCJ is being asked to throw out the Appeal Court ruling and uphold the High Court’s January decision that the motion was validly passed and as such, Government should resign and call elections.Earlier this month, the CCJ panel heard submissions from the parties and is expected to hand down its decision sometime in the coming month.According to the Opposition, there are concerns brewing over the length of time the CCJ is taking to deliver its decision, especially since it was critical of the sloth with which the matter was dealt with here in Guyana.Nevertheless, he posited that while they await that ruling, the staff at the Elections Commission should be cautious.“I just want to say to the technical staff at the Commission not to be bullied or pressured by the political Commissioners and the Chairman on (the conduct house-to-house registration). Because at the end of the day, they (the staff) will have a long-term presence at GECOM and careers at GECOM, and have responsibility of acting consistent with the law. And you wouldn’t have the same political backing; people would leave you in the lurch if anything ever goes wrong,” Jagdeo asserted.GECOM and the Government have been arguing that house-to-house registration is necessary to update the voters’ list which expired at the end of April 2019. Initially, GECOM said it would need some nine months to carry out the registration exercise but with the delays now, it could take longer than anticipated. This would result in the elections body being unable to honour the court ruling, if it is mandated for polls to be held promptly.However, the registration exercise is being held amidst contention between the two sides of political Commissioners at GECOM. The Opposition-nominated Commissioner had held out that there was no need for house-to-house registration when the old voters’ list could have been vetted and updated through a ‘claims and objection’ period.In fact, a similar view was recently shared by GECOM’s legal officer, Excellence Dazzle. She submitted a legal opinion, contending that house-to-house registration is not necessary and advised that another less time-consuming process be utilised, in accordance with the law, to update the list. But lawyer’s advice was set aside by GECOM.GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Wardlast_img