Several discrepancies alleged in GPSU elections
…no SOPs presented for six regions
The Guyana Public Service Union Elections Officer is being accused of allowing a number of discrepancies in the union’s Presidential elections which were held on Thursday. These issues were highlighted in a letter written yesterday by Presidential candidate, Gregory Gaspar, to the union’s Elections Officer, Herman De Souza.
Gaspar’s letter was copied to Assistant Elections Officer, Gregory Mentore, President of the Trade Union Recognition and Administration Board, Justice Claudette La Bennett, the Registrar of Trade Unions and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
Gaspar made mention of the recent discharge of an injunction which sought to restrain the holding of the election of office bearers for the Executive Council of the GPSU on April 25, 2017. He said that he told De Souza that setting the elections to be held two days after resulted in the disenfranchisement of several eligible voters since ample notice was not given.
“Many of these affected voters indicated that efforts were made to have this matter addressed but to no avail, and have informed me of same.”
Further, the Presidential candidate said that the election was conducted without a general list of eligible voters made available to members. He told De Souza that a request was made for the list on April 23, 2017 but members were told that due to elections being on hold due to the injunction issued by the High Court on April 19, 2017, he was unable to provide the documentation.
According to Gaspar, this list was requested of De Souza on April 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2017 by himself and other candidates but the list is yet to be made available.
Gaspar reported to the Elections Officer that no Statement of Polls (SOP) was provided for Regions Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven and Ten. This he said occurred despite polls being closed at 18:00hrs on April 27, 2017 and ballots would have been tallied.
He said that ballot boxes from these areas were delivered to the Elections Officer but despite repeated requests, no information was released to the members with respect to the close of poll statements.
“In addition, the final list of voters and indication of each member on the list who casted a ballot at each polling station and roving ballot boxes are still unavailable, again, despite the repeated requests from members and candidates for the elections.”
Gaspar said that the GPSU membership is aware that this information is critical for validating the count of ballots cast for each station or roving ballot box. He demanded of De Souza that each candidate contesting the GPSU elections for 2017 the observers witnessing the count, be furnished with this information.
He also highlighted to De Souza that ballot boxes were returned to the GPSU headquarters in the absence of the Elections Officer or the Assistant Elections Officer to receive them. Further, he said the integrity of these ballot boxes and others can be challenged since they were left in the building on the morning of April 28, 2017 open to tampering since neither the Elections Officer nor the Assistant Elections Officer was present.
Gaspar then reminded De Souza that there was an agreement that all persons would leave the venue together and return together to resume counting later that day. However, he said that other candidates were in the building before him and other candidates as well as De Souza and the Assistant Elections Officer.
He said that he and other candidates of the elections and members of the GPSU were locked out of the building by official notice placed on the door of the GPSU headquarters.
The Presidential Candidate said that four ballot boxes from Region Ten arrived on the morning of April 28, 2017. “Candidates are aware that three of the four boxes were empty while one contained ballots. Mrs. Unata DeFreitas and Mrs. Sandrene Abrams were told by Mr. Morris Butters that all of the ballots from Region Ten were placed in one box for convenience.
“I therefore put on record my objection to this gross irregularity on behalf of myself and other candidates, as well as concerned members of the GPSU, as this action compromises the integrity of the ballots, and by extension, the ballot boxes.”
Based on this situation, Gaspar asked De Souza that the ballots from Region Ten be disqualified for the breach and should not be considered in the counting of votes to determine the outcome of the election. He added that it has been alleged that there was tampering of the region three ballot boxes whereby a number of ballots not cast by eligible voters on the list were placed in the ballot box. He said this complaint should be reviewed before the election process comes to an end.
He said that these issues are of critical importance and would suggest that De Souza acted impulsively by calling the election on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the counting of ballots has been postponed until next Wednesday. This delay was attributed to the alleged interference by incumbent President of the GPSU, Patrick Yarde. However, Yarde refuted the claims saying that he has played no role to frustrate the process and will wait until next week for the counting of ballots to resume.
Further, in a statement circulated to the media yesterday, De Souza said that it is unfortunate and regrettable that the elections officials have not completed the counting and verification process and is not in a position to announce the elected officers of the GPSU Executive Council for the 2017 to 2021 term.
The statement said that every effort was made to ensure that the election process was not only free, fair and transparent but also free from fear. It said that it has become apparent that there are individuals determined to disrupt the process, which can only result in the disenfranchisement of thousands of members.
According to De Souza, when the counting and verification of ballots recommenced yesterday at 09:00hrs, he and his staff were subject to disruption and intimidating behaviour meted out by some candidates who admitted themselves into the building without authorization.
As a result, ranks from the Guyana Police Force were summoned. They attempted to resolve the matter. He said that the disruption lasted for six and a half hours. He also opined that the disruption could have been a ploy to deliberately obstruct the declaration of the elections result.