Members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are convinced that the Secretariat of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), headed by Keith Lowenfield, is acting independently to the will of the Commission headed by Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh.
Expressing this concern, in a video made available to Guyana Standard, was PPP member, Joseph Hamilton.
Hamilton supported the PPP’s assumption by saying that GECOM secretariat, this afternoon, issued a release that reads contrary to the commitments made by Justice Singh during a meeting earlier in the day.
Hamilton said that when PPP met with Singh, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo told her that it is necessary to uphold the constitution. Jagdeo mentioned that it is, therefore, necessary to head towards elections in the shortest timeline possible.
Jagdeo proposed that in order to achieve the shortest timeline, GECOM needs to immediately extract a preliminary voters list from the National Register of Registrants and then move into claims and objections mode.
Hamilton said that at the end of the meeting, the chair indicated that she has taken everything presented by the Opposition Leader and his team into consideration and further indicated that she is working towards a timeline of having elections “long before the end of the year.”
Hamilton continued, “And that is why we were very much surprised when we see a press release just issued by the secretariat trying to justify this long drawn out timeline including many things that will take us months before holding elections. Apparently the secretariat gone rogue.”
Hamilton made it clear that the Secretariat is supposed to function via the instructions of the commission but that another chain of command seems afoot.
Below is the full press release from GECOM to which Hamilton referred.
Decisions of the Commission has placed Nominations Day earlier than usual
– No ‘Lengthy Gap’ to delay Elections
September 10 2019, GEORGETOWN – The operations of GECOM’s Secretariat are guided by the decisions of Commission
and therefore any document produced by the technical team must be in conformity with those decisions along with the legal
and procedural requirements.
An article published in the Stabroek News on Monday, September 9, 2019 under the caption “Lengthy gap between
Nomination, Election days in draft timeline for polls” failed to articulate the reasons why Nominations was placed 55 days
before elections day instead of the usual timeline of between 32-34 days prior to elections day.
The law is clear that Nominations Day should be no later than 32 days before elections day. Therefore, any time before that
amount of days, even if it’s 55 days is acceptable and in conformity with the laws of Guyana.
The shift in the time is justifiable and does not breach any law and definitely not intended to delay the holding of elections as
adumbrated in the article. The decision for the gap were derived against the backdrop that:
1. Historically, when all the lists of candidates were submitted and once no errors for corrections, the ballots were sent off
to print. As such, some mandatory statutory timelines which took as much as 10 days after Nominations Day were
bypassed and the contesting Parties list of candidates were approved and sent off for the production of ballots.
However, the Operations Sub-Committee which is co-chaired by Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Charles Corbin
decided at a meeting on 17th July, 2018 that all statutory timelines must be adhered to. This proposal was subsequently
presented to and adopted by the full Commission.
2. As customary, the ballots will be printed overseas and the service provider has provided a 21 days duration for the
printing only. Shipping is likely to be 5-7 days which will take us to roughly 28 days.
3. Upon arrival of the ballots in Guyana, there will be a process of extracting ballots to ship overseas to all the NonResident Ambassadors to allow for them to vote. This will take as much as 14 days to be completed.
Consequent to the foregoing and in the present circumstances, expediting those activities means that Nominations Day must
be held at least 55 days prior to elections day. It must however be emphasized that the timelines presented are in draft and
the Commission can determine whether they will reverse the decision to remove 9 days for appeals after Nominations Day
once all the lists of candidates are error free.
The Guyana Elections Commission is committed to ensuring it delivers credible elections within the shortest possible time
and has no motive to delay the conduct of those elections.