Recently, the Chairwoman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice Claudette Singh, urged Berbice residents to get registered. However, her publicised comment does not truly reflect her position on the house-to-house registration process, says former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.
Justice Singh was in Berbice last Friday at the opening ceremony of two GECOM registration offices in Corriverton and Whim, respectively, where she was quoted by the state media as saying, “In order to vote you must be registered… that is your first task; you must be registered before you exercise your constitutional right to vote.”
But Nandlall argues that Justice Singh’s statements were taken out of context by persons he describes as “government propagandists” who are supposedly “twisting [her words] to suit their political agenda, to contend that Justice Singh is supportive of House-to-House Registration.”
The politician accused Prime Minister (PM) Moses Nagamootoo of being the “intellectual author” after the PM in his weekly column “My Turn” noted that Justice Singh “seemed” to be supporting the commission’s campaign.
“Justice Singh was simply stating the correct legal and constitutional position in relation to voting. To draw any other inference from that statement would be grossly perverse,” Nandlall said.
Justice Singh’s appointment as head of GECOM comes after a period of consultation between the Leader of the Opposition and the Head of State. Both sides have deemed the selection process a fair and consensual one.
The ongoing house-to-house registration is a contentious one that now has the opposition and government on opposing sides. Following the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)’s ruling that the appointment of the previous GECOM Chairman, Justice (Rtd) James Patterson was flawed, and the court’s validation of the no-confidence motion, the government has been reeling, with the opposition leading mass protests calling on the administration to host elections within the constitutional timeframe of three months.
The President has maintained that he can only announce a date for elections based on the readiness of GECOM to do so.
The house-to-house registration was operationalised on July 20, 2019 by an order that was made by Justice Patterson.
The opposition maintains that the CCJ’s ruling would have rendered that order null and void since Patterson’s appointment was deemed unconstitutional.
Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, is on record saying that he is operating under the context that the order was made prior to the ruling regarding Patterson; which means that the order was made when Patterson’s position was bona fide. This advice was reportedly provided to him by GECOM’s in-house legal advisor.
The government has been pushing for the process, saying that it contains the appropriate methodological components to gather accurately, the required data to formulate a new voters’ list since the previous one expired in April of this year.
The opposition disagrees and claims that the process will extend beyond the constitutional timeframe. They have since concluded that the government is pushing for the process because it will likely push elections back to mid-2020.
Meanwhile, a request for a conservatory order to the process is currently engaging the Chief Justice.