The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says that there is no legal requirement for party agents to watch containers with ballots boxes that the agency has in its custody.
“The law does not contemplate party agents as a key stakeholder in the security of ballot boxes once these have been deposited in the custody of the Commission,” the Commission said via a statement today.
It added that Section 141 of the Representation of the People Act states that in any indictment, information or complaint for an offence in relation to ballot boxes, ballot papers and other election material, the property in them may be stated to be in the Chief Elections Officer”.
The Commission’s statement came as a result of a Whatsapp message being circulated, which says that “GECOM is now restricting party agents from moving around containers to ensure that they are safe and have not been compromised”.
GECOM reminded that though there is no legal provision for party agents to act as security for electoral materials, in the present circumstance, Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh made a decision on 15 March 2020 that one agent per political party be accommodated in GECOM’s compound for the sole purpose of watching containers with General and Regional Elections 2020 ballot boxes.
In fact, pre-dating GRE 2020, there is an administrative arrangement for all contesting parties to place a padlock on each container with ballot boxes. Only two main parties – APNU+AFC and PPP/C- have placed chains and padlocks on each container in the custody of the Commission.
GECOM said that it recognized that the safety and security of its staff and compound were compromised by the presence of party agents. As of 25 March, 2020, political parties were asked to desist from photographing and taking videos of staff members and GECOM’s routine operations.
In light of the foregoing, the Commission is requesting for party agents to observe the Commission’s security protocol and “desist from peddling misinformation in this regard”.