Justice Singh, GECOM illegally removing persons from OLE – guilty of voter suppression- Leslie Ramsammy
It is an egregious mistake and a blatant illegality – GECOM has an absolute obligation to extract EVERY name of a person who is at least eighteen years old on the National Register of Registrants (NRR) to compile the voters’ list. Already a Preliminary Voters’ List (PLE) was prepared from the NRR and is presently subjected to Claims and Objections. GECOM’s decision to keep persons on the NRR, but removing them from the voters’ list, even though they are eighteen years old is not just illegal, it is fully voter suppression.
The only way to remove a person from the voters’ list is if the person has died or there has been a successful objection to that person during Claims and Objection. Bharat Jagdeo and the PPP are fighting the illegal move by GECOM to disenfranchise more than 25,000 persons. While the PPP is carrying the heavy lifting fighting for these persons, none of the other political parties seems interested in meaningfully joining the fight. Where are Ramkarran, Shuman, Badal, Ruel Johnson, Vishnu Bandoo, Fed-Up and their parties? Where are other stakeholders, such as the private sector commission, the trade unions, Transparency International, the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Bar Association, the Women’s’ Lawyers Association? Where are the ABCE countries?
Surely, this should be a joint fight to protect the integrity of the Guyanas’ Voters’ List. Whether anyone likes Bharat Jagdeo or the PPP or not, everyone should join them to fight for the integrity of the voters’ list. Today, the attack is against these 25,000 persons, tomorrow, it might be each of us. This fight is for Guyana’s democracy.
GECOM plans to remove more than 25,000 persons from the Voters’ List unless these people show up at a GECOM office to pick up their ID cards which they had previously not picked up. These persons, according to GECOM’s dictate, have 21 days to pick up their cards, failing which, their names will be removed from the Voters’ list. Justice Singh and GECOM must show Guyanese and the world the law that permits them to commit this egregious act; the law does not exist.
But APNU+AFC, the political party behind the move, and the GECOM Secretariat are unbothered by this blatant illegality. No one in APNU+AFC or within GECOM questions the legitimacy of these persons being listed in the NRR and, therefore, no that these persons had legitimately registered. In fact, Justice Claudette Singh insists these persons will retain their registration in the NRR. But this is a violation of the law – the voters list is obtained by extracting all names from the NRR of persons who are eighteen (18) years old as of a particular date. For the March 2, 2020 elections, the cut-off date is December 31, 2019.
There is no other requirement for the extraction of names. GECOM has no flexibility – they must extract every name of persons 18 at least years old, outside of dead persons. At the time of registration, these persons personal data, including their then residency, were verified and scrutinized. GECOM staff, accompanied by scrutinizers from the PPP and the PNC and other political parties, had verified these persons' physical being and verified the presence of these persons at their addresses.
Notable in the present Claims and Objections conducted by GECOM no one has objected to any of these names. The only legitimate reasons to object to anyone are those described in the law, such as the person has died. Not picking up one’s ID card is not remotely a reason described in the constitution or any law. The move by GECOM, supported by commissioners linked to APNU+AFC and by the Chair of GECOM, is, therefore, barefacedly disenfranchising voters, rigging the election.
There is no law that obligates a citizen collecting his National ID card from GECOM. There is a law that describes eligibility of persons who want to vote in an election in Guyana (Articles 59 and 159 of Guyana’s Constitution). Nowhere in the constitution or in any law does it state that a person must have in his or her possession a National ID Card to register or vote. The law does require someone to register and be on a voter’s list in order to vote, but he or she can use any approved document as an ID, including a National ID Card, a passport or any other approved document. In fact, in Guyana, the voter’s lists in possession of officials from GECOM contain photographs of individuals and, in all elections since 2001, provisions are in place for these folio pictures to be used whenever someone shows up without an ID card.
The High Court had already ruled in 2001 that the Voter’s ID Card is illegal. The judge in that ruling was Justice Claudette Singh. The parliament had voted unanimously to make it lawful for the use of a voter’s ID card for the 1997 elections, after the PNC had demanded there must be a voter’s ID card. Subsequently, having lost the elections very badly, the PNC, through a surrogate named Ester Perreira, challenged the use of a voter’s ID card and Justice Claudette Singh ruled the law was unconstitutional.
Acknowledging the results of the election would not have changed, she still vitiated the 1997 elections and, therefore, the then PPP’s government was forced to schedule elections more than a year earlier than the full term. In addition, Chief Justice Roxanne George this year ruled that no one can be removed from the NRR, even if the person is resident somewhere else at present. There are many reasons why persons did not pick up their ID cards. For some, they tried and could not and subsequently did not feel they needed the card, since there are other ways they can verify who they are. From her FB page, Ms. Priya Manikchand admitted she never picked up her card.
Is her name going to be removed from the voters list? I tried to pick up my card several times after 2008 and failed. I eventually picked it up after I was assisted by the then Chairman. He had referred me to a senior officer who then assisted me. I have never used my ID card for anything, never used it to vote since I always used my passport. There are, in fact, thousands of Guyanese who have lost their ID cards and have not
bothered to replace them. Are these persons going to lose their rights to vote?
The decision by GECOM is illegal, it is patently voter suppression and thousands of Guyanese will challenge them. What happens if someone, in fact, communicate they will not be able within the 21 days given to pick up their card, but give notice they will turn up to vote?