GECOM slams allegations of padded voters’ list

GECOM slams allegations of padded voters’ list

 – defends Commission’s integrity

September 5, 2014 | BY |By Zena Henry

Steve Surujbally

Steve Surujbally

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has not taken lightly to what it says are “relentless, unacceptable, unwarranted and undeserving amounts of castigation,” levied against its integrity.

With an invitation to the media and several representatives of the diplomatic corps, the body hosted a press conference at Cara Lodge yesterday and went in-depth into its operational procedure in a bid to clarify untruths being pushed by “antagonizing parties” and also published in some sections of the media.

Chairman of the Elections Commission, Dr. Steve Surujbally stated categorically that GECOM dismisses any information that seems to suggest padding of the voters’ list, reluctance in addressing objections and failing to effectively deal with matters of integrity among others. 

With the expectation of imminent General Elections, the Commission has commenced processes to facilitate the holding of same. In similar vein, relevant parties have also commenced groundwork in preparation, with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) being most vocal in relation to alleged discrepancies that challenge, for the most part, the reliability of the Commission’s list of voters.

While the process of registration, verification and other election related modus operandi were explained by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, the Chairman opted to go head-on with more recent “unsupported” allegations levied against the agency.

He dismissed a letter appearing in a newspaper yesterday which purports that in one year GECOM managed to have a new list of 78,000 residents. “Not only is that asserted, there seems to be a continuation of that assertion and a whole case is built on that false premise.”

Surujbally went on to confirm that there is still a vacancy for an IT Administrator at GECOM. He noted that the question continues to repeat itself, but asked whether it is just coincidence that “unpredictably, the temporary deficiency in the IT division now becomes an issue… and questions of who puts in the data and who supervises the process and what quality control mechanisms are in place, are suddenly emerging.”

The Chairman noted that GECOM has advertised several times, locally and internationally, but was not satisfied that applicants are fitting for the job description, “or they might not be politically acceptable.” However, the Commission is seeking to fill the position even if it is temporarily, with the help of the international development partners.

Another issue the Chairman addressed was allegations of GECOM not using the services of the joint International Technical Assessor (ITA) and its reluctance to establish an international monitoring unit. Chairman Surujbally charged that GECOM has never refused to use the services of ITA.

The ITA refers to someone experienced in elections management and is traditionally associated with GECOM. He said the ITA has always been identified and funded by the international partners. In light of anticipated general polls, Surujbally clarified that GECOM has already engaged the international development partners.

In relation to a publication which claimed that ten registered persons were living in a home in Prospect on the East Bank of Demerara, but a visit to the location proved that it was an unoccupied empty lot, overgrown with bushes, Surujbally said that immediate investigations commenced. In a letter from the “complaining party” he said it was alleged that the lot has been empty for more than eight years.

However, in “ exposing this particular piece of deception,” the Chairman said, GECOM investigators were told by neighbours that the house which previously stood on the Prospect lot had collapsed sometime last year and the occupants had moved less than a half mile away to the homes of other relatives.

The Senior GECOM staff member visited the new address of the electors and was able to confirm the neighbour’s information, since all ten persons had indeed been living at the former location.

“Despite this known explanation, this piece of misinformation continues to be replicated in certain parts of the media,” the Chairman charged.

On the issue of former President Arthur Chung’s name still being on the voters’ list, Surujbally explained that removing the name of a deceased individual is not a ‘willy-nilly” process. He explained that even if one is cognizant of a deceased elector, that person’s name still cannot be removed from the list unless the relevant supporting documentation is provided and the Commission conducts regular checks.

The Chairman said that he is confident that thousands of names are on the list, but should not be there. That is because without the evidence, one’s name cannot be removed from the list. This is to prevent occurrences where persons are claimed to be dead, but later turn up to question why their names are not on the voters’ list. He highlighted one case where 10 persons engaged GECOM since they had been reported as deceased and were struck off the list. It was highlighted, however, that there are several systems put in place by GECOM and with the help of political parties and other agents, it can be ensured that persons do not vote in place of the deceased registrants.

The Chairman has also taken ‘umbrage’ with the use of the word ‘padding’ against the Commission since “it seems to suggest that the Commission is consciously and knowingly increasing the size of the voters list with persons who are not supposed to be there”.

Surujbally said that the current election process is “near perfect” and the efforts of the operators are well-known outside of Guyana. When asked, he noted that the attacks on the agency seem to be from a particular section, while Opposition Parties have not expressed the same concerns.

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Comments

  • de Castro compton  On September 5, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Wonderful news….there is hopen for guyanese
    if honourable gentlemen like steve surujbally are
    In charge…..but one issue I have with elections
    internationally…..when results are made public
    it would be nice to have a more fine tuned results
    available for public scrutiny….
    Eg. Age sex residential/non-residential stats etc…
    Openness in politricks without breach of personal
    identity….my gripe !

    Kamtan 11.15.45 05.09.2014 UK

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