The current process to select a chair for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been throwing up one hurdle after the next.
There is another development now that is likely to pit the Coalition Government and the Opposition on another collision course.
GECOM, in a recent publication in the Official Gazette, announced that it will start house-to-house registrations from Saturday, July 20, 2019. The exercise is set to conclude on October 20.
However, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, last evening was adamant that GECOM cannot go ahead with the house-to-house registrations, which could take months and derail elections which the Opposition wants by September.
The issue has been a thorny one for the political parties.
The Coalition Government, facing early elections after a shocking defeat on the no-confidence vote on December 21, last, has been insisting that the Voters’ List, used in the 2015 elections and Local Government Elections, is filled with the names of dead persons and more than 200,000 incorrect entries.
It also claimed that thousands of voters, now of age, would be disenfranchised.
The Coaltion wants the list sanitized by conducting house-to-house registration.
However, the Opposition has been objecting, believing house-to-house registration was but a ploy to delay elections.
The Opposition said that any sanitization can be handled in a claims and objections period.
Last week, with respect to several court cases, the Caribbean Court of Justice ordered that parties adhere to the Constitution which says elections within three months after a government would have faced a successful no-confidence vote.
According to the Order made under the National Registration Act, GECOM said that the order shall come into operation on Saturday, July 20.
“Persons to whom this order applies shall in accordance with Section 6 of the Act, be registered under the process of house to house registration with reference to October 31st and the registration shall begin on July 20th, 2019 and end on October 20th, 2019.”
The order said that it shall apply to all persons who are qualified to be electors and on the qualifying date of October 31st, 2019 shall have attained the age of 14 years.
The order was made on June 11, 2019 by former Chairman, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson.
However, the Opposition Leader was clear last evening about the legality of that order by Patterson who resigned on June 24, days after that order was purportedly made.
According to Jagdeo, the order which suddenly appeared online after the CCJ orders last week, is what the GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, has been using to push for house-to-house registration.
“It was not online; nobody knew about that Gazette notice. There was one on June 14, an addendum of the one of (June)11, about the (electoral) divisions. They kept this (order) quiet, while the cases were awaiting a decision before the CCJ. This only surfaced a few days ago when we saw a copy of it.”
However, Jagdeo said he is not worried.
“They obviously have been busy behind our backs with this order for house-to-house. That order has been overtaken by the orders of the CCJ. GECOM is bound to respect the Constitution of Guyana.”
According to the Opposition Leader, a former president of Guyana whose two terms ended in 2011, this late publication of the Official Gazette, strategically after the CCJ orders, would just shows how duplicitous the Coalition Government is.
“They just did this behind the back of the court. Elections are due in three months in accordance with the Constitution, they told the Court in their presentation that the earliest they will be ready for elections is December 25th. They want to go to house-to-house… clearly house-to-house is not acceptable.”
The Opposition Leader noted that fortunately, the international community has called on all the actors to respect the Constitution and the orders of the Court.
“We are not just gonna accept it. We are clear- the CCJ ruling overtook that order when it says that GECOM must comply with the Constitution and the CCJ enjoined them as a party to the proceedings.”
Kaieteur News has attempted to elicit a comment from GECOM, but was unable to make contact with anyone from the Public Relations department.