Coalition Members of Parliament (MPs) have stressed the need for the Official List of Electors (OLE) to be “fixed” before the hosting of Local Government Elections (LGEs) Constitutionally due next year.
MPs Dawn Hastings-Williams and Tabitha Sarabo-Halley told the Guyana Standard this afternoon, that a reliable OLE guarantees credible election, and therefore, all steps should be taken to ensure that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is ready to carry out its mandate.
Sarabo-Halley said that resources must be provided to GECOM in the 2021 National Budget for the body to initiate the process of House-to-House registration from which an updated OLE can be derived. The former Public Service Minister anticipates that a House-to-House process, if operationalised after the passage of the 2021 Budget, could be completed before LGEs are held.
The Coalition is also on record calling for a new list to be compiled within the shortest possible time, so that GECOM can be ready to host snap elections should the two elections petitions before the courts be deemed successful in vitiating the March polls.
The MPs’ comments seem to coincide with utterances made by President Ali earlier this week, to the effect that issues at GECOM must be “fixed” before the nation goes to the polls. He, however, did not make specific reference to the OLE, or House-to-House registration.
The Coalition, however, has expressed concerns in these ‘fixes’ as articulated by the president. They are of the opinion that there is a plot afoot by the regime to “derail” the process so that the government can have full control over local governance structures.
The OLE has been a major source of disputation in the lead up to the highly contentious March 2 General and Regional Elections; a process given the dubious distinction of being the lengthiest elections in Guyana’s post-independence era (five months).
Controversy erupted after the former GECOM Chairman, Justice (Retired) James Patterson, operationalised the House to House Registration process to create a new OLE. The process was resisted by several sections of society on the assumption that it was illegally operationalised. Concerns were also registered regarding the duration of the process, and the possibility of it exceeding the three-month deadline constitutionally mandated to the hosting of elections after the fall of a government to a no-confidence motion.
Patterson’s appointment by former President, David Granger, was deemed unconstitutional by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and was required to immediately resign, however, the registration process was already in motion.
It was ultimately abandoned by the new GECOM Chair, Justice (Retired) Claudette Singh, who expressed a similar concern about the process being a hinderance to the period for hosting fresh elections.
Nevertheless, the Coalition has always been adamant that the OLE is bloated, and the House-to-House process being the sole viable option to refresh the list.