“A win for Guyana”. That is how Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has chosen to deem the Chief Justice’s assertion that the deregistration of electors as part of the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) house-to-house registration exercise would be unconstitutional.
In fact, he said, this was the basis of his party’s call for persons to not participate in the registration exercise and is solid confirmation that the registration process is unnecessary and a “colossal waste of time”.
Jagdeo made these remarks during a brief press conference this afternoon, mere hours after Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire handed down her ruling. While the Chief Justice said that the registration process was legal and not against the Constitution, she also ruled that it would be unconstitutional to remove persons from the database. Among other issues, she underscored that this will infringe upon a person’s constitutional right to vote and noted that a person’s absence from their home during the house-to-house exercise is not grounds for deregistration.
Speaking on the Chief Justice’s ruling, Jagdeo reiterated that she said that residency is not a qualifying requirement and therefore the names of persons on the list cannot be removed unless they are dead or have become disqualified based on the requirements as outlined in Article 159 of the Constitution. Article 159 states that all persons who are citizens of Guyana and above the age of 18 are eligible to vote, as well as Commonwealth citizens domiciled and resident in Guyana for a period of one year immediately preceding the qualifying date.
He stressed that his fear had been that thousands of persons would have been deregistered during the house-to-house registration exercise; he said too that persons would have been deregistered and it would scrap the existing database.
“We are vindicated in telling people not to register. It’s a colossal waste of time…your names cannot be removed from the register whether [you] participate in the enumeration process or not…that is what we were fighting all along for,” he stressed. He added, “They cannot remove people from the NRR [National Register of Registrants] who have already [been] registered.”
Jagdeo further emphasised that the NRR that was used to extract an Official List of Electors (OLE) used in previous elections remains intact.
“This is a major, major movement forward and therefore we expect that GECOM will respect the decision of the court and move swiftly to the Claims and Objections period so that we can update the list and move to elections.”