Opposition-appointed GECOM members complain about missed statutory meeting
-cite nine issues
The three PPP/C-nominated members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have criticised Chairman, Justice James Patterson for failing to hold a meeting in the final week before Local Government Elections which are scheduled for Monday, November 12.
According to the commissioners, there has been no meeting since the Disciplined Services voted on November 2 which means they have not been briefed on the process nor been able to address concerns raised during voting on the day.
At an emergency press conference held yesterday at the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Commissioner Bibi Shadick noted that she and the other two commissioners had written to Patterson requesting that the statutory meeting missed due to Tuesday’s holiday be rescheduled but had received no response. Shadick argued that there are several election-related matters which need to be addressed.
“So far so many things have gone wrong starting from nomination day…on D-Day (November 2) there were reports in the press about persons being left off the list and those are issues that have to come to the commission…once discussed GECOM has to make a decision [but] the chairman who has the responsibility to call a meeting is not calling one,” Shadick argued, stressing that a meeting will assure and make sure the process on Monday will not go awry.
She further noted that these elections are a “dress rehearsal” for 2020 which has gone horribly wrong with the Chairman and Chief Election Officer sending the message that they think they can run the elections without input from the commission.
According to Sase Gunraj, another PPP/C commissioner, information is not flowing freely to the commissioners which has caused them to question the transparency of the process.
“Information is not coming to us readily...there are several issues that have come up, but we have not had a chance to address these…there can be no excuse for not briefing the Commissioners on what is happening….if we as members of GECOM cannot feel confident about the process, I shudder to think about what the general electorate should feel and how confident they are in the process” he noted, while the third commissioner, Robeson Benn stressed that it appears to be an attempt to avoid discussing some issues.
“I spoke to the CEO and he said we are in operational mode…I said that does not prevent the Commission from meeting,” he told the press conference adding that for all intents and purposes, the Elections Commission is hiding in plain sight due to the unwillingness of the Chairman and other members, perhaps too, to have a Commission meeting.
The commissioners later released a letter addressed to Patterson which detailed nine items they wished to see addressed at a meeting of the commission before polling day on Monday.
These issues include an update on the status of the LGE polls, responses to stakeholders’ concerns addressed to GECOM, efficiency of poll preparations and readiness for polls, efforts to deny poll oversight of commissioners and stakeholders, complaints with respect to logistical arrangements delaying and disrupting traffic, the role of security forces with respect to polls, the role of observers with respect to polls, arrangements for declarations and their oversight, and the lack of the statutory mandated meeting of GECOM during the height of preparations for polls.
Stabroek News reached out to both Patterson and CEO Keith Lowenfield for comment on the situation. Patterson noted that he has written to the commissioners and has nothing to say outside of the contents of that letter while Lowenfield stressed that he is in no way responsible for calling a meeting.
“I report to the commissioners. They are above my pay grade,” he noted, adding that both Commissioner Benn and Gunraj have been present at the secretariat day and night.
“They are here as part of the commissions’ observations ensuring that the best practices are used,” he said.