November 26 2019
With fewer than 300 persons collecting their national identification (ID) cards since some 18,512 with uncollected cards were named, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is hoping to ramp up its public awareness campaign to possibly improve the public response.
“As of [Sunday], 290 persons around the country have collected their ID cards,” Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward told Stabroek News yesterday.
Ward noted that this response is less than hoped for and indicated that in the coming days her department will be moving to institute a series of radio ads as a possible means of improving the public response.
Beginning on November 9th, GECOM has published in the four daily newspapers and on the commission’s website the names of who have not collected their cards some from since 2008.
While these registrants will be able to vote at the March 2nd General and Regional Elections, they are likely to be subject to “greater scrutiny” if they don’t collect their cards.
An Order signed by Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield directs that all persons whose names are listed need to be verified.
These persons must personally appear at their closest registration office with a Guyana issued birth certificate or certificate of registration of a foreign birth or a valid Guyana passport as well as any other supporting documents which may be requested by the registration officer before whom they appear.
According to the order, by fulfilling this requirement on or before December 2nd, 2019 the listed individuals will be ensuring that their name is included on the final list of electors for the next general and regional elections.
“Failure to satisfy this requirement will result in your name appearing in a special section of the Official List of Electors (OLE) on Elections Day. You must note however, that your registration record in the General Register of Registrants (NRR) shall not be cancelled,” it explains.
GECOM Chair retired Justice Claudette Singh has explained that the decision was made in keeping with Section 6 (6A) of the National Registration Act as well as the August 14th ruling of Chief Justice Roxane George, which together make clear that the commission can use any means to verify the list.
Section 6 (6A) states that the Elections Commission shall use the Official List of Electors from the 2001 General and Regional Elections as the base to commence continuous registration provided that at any stage the commission may undertake such verification as necessary by a means to be determined by the commission.
Lowenfield told reporters that 19,502 names had been compiled, with 12,079 of those representing persons who have not collected ID Cards since 2008 and additionally 1,404 were registered during the two cycles of registration held in 2018.
The published list, however, included 18,512 names, a significant number of whom appear to have migrated.
Stabroek News reached out to commissioners for comment on the public response and received contrasting views. Opposition-nominated commissioner Sase Gunraj dismissed the entire process as a waste of resources.
“The whole exercise is a waste of time because they can’t remove the people from the list. It would be illegal to do so. This is costing millions and no names can be removed,” he lamented.
Gunraj further questioned the authenticity of the list and the process surrounding the exercise.
He noted that persons who currently hold ID cards and have voted using same have found their name on the list, while other who have attempted to collect their cards have been faced with bureaucratic hurdles.
“They are being told not this office, you have to go somewhere else. I don’t know if the data caters for such situations,” the commissioner explained.
Meanwhile government-nominated Commissioner Desmond Trotman was emphatic that whatever money has been spent in the process was worth it.
“There are thousands of cards held. It would be an act of stupidity for GECOM not to ascertain the state of these people. We want to be absolutely sure what the status of these people is. It’s money well spent,” he said in an invited comment.