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PPP threats to GECOM a big joke- Alexander

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PPP threats to GECOM a big joke- Alexander

Commissioner Vincent Alexander (Samuel Maughn photo) Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, stated that, not only will the most recent litigation attempt against the Commission result in a waste of resource, but such baseless allegations were “making a joke of the Constitution”.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2019, marked the end of the seven-day deadline set by Opposition Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall, through his firm A. Nandlall & Associates, for the Commission to cease preparations for house-to-house registration or face litigation. Nandlall had stipulated the deadline in a letter to Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield on April 2, 2019, on behalf of Opposition-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn

The letter, carbon copied to GECOM Chairman Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson, hinged the ultimatum on the ‘position’ that the exercise would be a “violation of the constitution” by excluding persons who will be absent from Guyana during the period of its conduct. “It’s a joke! I think we’re reducing our politics to jokes now,” Alexander said coming out of Tuesday’s statutory meeting

He reminded: “We’ve had house-to-house registration on a number of occasions in this country, including 2008, when those who are now saying that it’s unconstitutional provided the funding to carry out the exercise. We are now with our 2019 programme which was approved by a budget in parliament in 2018 that we would do house-to-house registration

None of these people said then that it was unconstitutional. We can see that people are operating basically from the standpoint that there is no principle informing people’s behavior now. It’s a matter of convenience and we’re making a joke of the constitution.”

The Opposition-nominated Commissioners walked out of Tuesday’s meeting once again because an agenda item would have seen a continuation of last Tuesday’s suspended meeting on the topic of house-to-house registration

Alexander stated that Commissioner Bibi Shadick stated that she would only remain at the meeting if matters pertaining to elections which do not include the topic of house-to-house registration were being discussed

Such was not the case and Shadick, along with Benn and Commissioner Sase Genraj, left the building

As such, the letter sent by Nandlall to the CEO was not discussed nor was the matter regarding legal arrangement to represent the Commission in this regard

Commissioner Robeson Benn Alexander added: “What I know is that he [Nandlall] is causing tremendous waste of resources because the case is nothing but a joke and to have to recourse upon GECOM to hire a lawyer to defend the joke, it’s not too much dissimilar from the other case brought by Marcel Gaskin where the Magistrate unequivocally said ‘this is an abuse of the court’.” On March 15, 2019, private criminal charges filed against Government- nominated Commissioners by Gaskin were dismissed at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court by Chief Magistrate Ann Mc Lennan who deemed the charges as having no legal basis or merit

While the latest legal effort against the Commission states that house-to-house registration is an “unlawful and unconstitutional exercise” and would “disenfranchise thousands of persons” outside Guyana at the time of its conduct, Alexander rebutted that provisions have long been made for such cases

“If house-to-house [registration] is happening and someone is away from Guyana at the time, at the end of that exercise, coming on to the elections there would be Claims and Objections and that provides an opportunity for anyone who would have come or returned to do a claim to get on to the list through Claims and Objections,” he stated

He said that despite the present efforts, training in preparation for house-to-house registration continues and more of such is expected in Georgetown and elsewhere in the coming weeks

However, the Commissioner did note that, while the lack of a quorum at the statutory meetings of the Commission is not preventing the house-to-house registration preparations aspect of the 2019 work programme, it is preventing the Commission from hiring senior staff

“The Commission is getting on with house-to-house registration so that the major activity is not being impeded by the lack of a quorum,” he said

“[However] there may be matters pertaining to procurement and certainly the matter pertaining to senior staff. We still don’t have a logistics manager; we still don’t have a Voter and Civic Education person and we still don’t have an Assistant Chief Elections Officer and all those officers. Their appointments are being held up due to the non-co-operation of the Opposition Leader’s nominees.”

The Commissioner said that the positions had already been advertised and individuals were shortlisted but the next stage catering for interviews had not yet occurred. The walkout of Opposition-nominated Commissioners from GECOM’s statutory meetings has been staged consecutively since February 28, 2019