Op­po­si­tion-ap­pointed GECOM mem­bers com­plain about missed statu­tory meet­ing

-cite nine is­sues

Stabroek News - - REGIONAL NEWS -

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.

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