Opposition-appointed Elections Commissioner, Robeson Benn has accused the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) of abusing the COVID-19 situation to prevent observers and stakeholders from satisfactorily observing and verifying the recount process for ballot boxes.
His basis for this is the layouts and footprints of counting stations at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where the national recount exercise commenced yesterday.
According to Benn, GECOM is utilizing the misguided, or worse, malicious guidance from the Ministry of Public Health and is bent on enforcing a six- foot social distance requirement in a seating arrangement for stakeholders and observers, who will wear even N95 masks, while its own staff at the head table will be operating within three-feet of each other while wearing masks which is consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for a low-risk environment.
The foregoing therefore led Benn to ask, “How does one justify, in the circumstances the large separation distance between the counting table on one side and the stakeholders and observers on the other side?”
Benn said that there is a two-trestle head table setup with a camera and screen, with four seating places for staff. He added that the distance to the first row of seats for stakeholders and observers is some 15 feet.
The observed seating matrix is three by four, making for the distance to the last row of seating from the table to be at least forty feet, Benn pointed out.
The elections Commissioner further said that the presence of the screen to project the packages, ballots and other materials does not really help because the fixed camera capture area is relatively small to ascertain the true condition of packages, ballots and the ultimate storage or fate of all items received and processed.
“One would have to continuously alter views between the screen and the table to keep track of disparate actions by the handlers at the distances on offer to avoid any issue of claims of switching or insertions. And then a resort would have to be made to go up to the table to make certain that what was indeed said or displayed, from afar, is indeed true leading to delays in the activity.”
Against this background, Benn is calling for an urgent review of the operational setting and methodology in place. This he noted will most certainly allay concerns and to deliver a recount process which meets high levels of transparency in all aspects.
Apart from that, he pointed out that it will ensure that surety in GECOM is restored to the Guyanese electorate who participated in a process which they own through the political parties that represent them.