Opposition appointed members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have revealed that late changes were made to the list of polling places for the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections without their knowledge or consent.
In a statement Saturday, Robeson Benn, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick accused the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of GECOM, Keith Lowenfield of making this decision “in his own deliberate judgement, and for him to now claim that it was the Commission’s decision not to use any private residences, is totally false.”
The three PPP appointed Commissioners noted that there are no longer any polling places located in private residences anywhere on the East Coast Demerara but will now be located in tents on the Line Top and a Playfield.
According to the Commissioners, in late January 2020, they received from the CEO in soft and hard copy, a list of polling stations countrywide together with extractions listing private residences and other buildings to be used as polling stations.
The PPP found this list acceptable.
“Lo and behold, two weeks ago, when GECOM put the information online for electors to check for their names and Polling Stations, and we received by e-mail on February 20, 2020, a list of Polling Stations which reflects the online information, there were no longer any Polling Places located in private residences anywhere on the East Coast Demerara.
“The same does not apply for other areas in Georgetown where the private residences are retained as per the January 2020 lists.
“In an area like FOULIS where in January 2020, 9 (nine) private residences were listed together with one (1) public place, there are now no private residences!”
According to the Commissioners, “In Mon Repos, a huge housing community, had listed on the January list, 7 private and 7 public places, for polling.
“There is now only 2 Polling Places, Mon Repos Nursery and Primary Schools, both in the same location.
“Good Hope, another large housing area had on the January list , 3 private and 2 public places; it now has provision for 2 tents and 1 public place, that being a Nursery School which is a relatively small flat building.”
The PPP appointed GECOM Commissioners noted that most of the affected communities are predominantly PPP/C areas.
“We reject the unilateral changes made by the CEO and his Secretariat, to the Lists of Polling Places and demand that the January 2020 Listings be used countrywide. Nothing less will do,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, Assistant Election Agent of the PPP, Anil Nandlall has written a formal letter of complaint to the Chairman of GECOM Justice (Rt’d) Claudette Singh dated February 22.
In the letter, which Nandlall released to the media, he asked for the GECOM Head’s “urgent intervention” since efforts to rectify the issue with the CEO failed.
“The issues raised are inextricably linked to the integrity and fairness” of the March 2 polls, Nandlall wrote.
He said the PPP is “deeply disturbed” by the reduction in polling places.
“We consider this latest development as yet another attempt by GECOM to frustrate voters, suppress and hinder voting and create possible confusion on Elections Day.”
Nandlall’s letter of complaint was also copied to all the international election observers.
This issue was first brought to the fore by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on February 20 during his weekly press conference, which was followed by a PPP statement the same night.
Members of the media, including the News Room, reached out to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) at GECOM since February 20 for a response but none was forthcoming.
GECOM has not publicly responded to the claims being made by the PPP or the Opposition appointed Commissioners.