THE Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Thursday made it clear that there is no legal requirement for agents of political parties to guard the containers with ballot boxes currently in its custody.
“The Law does not contemplate Party agents as a key stakeholder in the security of ballot boxes, once these have been deposited in the custody of the Commission,” GECOM said Thursday in a statement, while referring to Section 141 of the Representation of the People Act.
According to Section 141 of the Representation of the People Act, “…Any indictment, information or complaint for an offence in relation to ballot boxes, ballot papers and other election material, the property in them may be stated to be in the Chief Election Officer.” **
Opposition-aligned political parties have alleged that GECOM has restricted them from moving around the containers, currently housed at GECOM’s Headquarters on High and Cowan Streets, Kingston, but the Commission is keen to remind that there is no legal basis for agents to guard the ballot boxes.
NO LEGAL PROVISION
“Though there is no legal provision for Party agents to act as security for electoral materials, in the present circumstance, Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission made a decision on 15 March, 2020 that one agent per political party be accommodated in GECOM’s compound for the sole purpose of watching containers with General and Regional Elections (GRE) 2020 ballot boxes. “In fact, pre-dating GRE 2020, there is an administrative arrangement for all contesting parties to place a padlock on each container with ballot boxes,” GECOM explained.
The Commission, however, notes that only the two major political parties, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), have placed chains and padlocks on each container in the custody of the Commission.
Nonetheless, the Commission has disclosed that it has had reason to caution agents of the various political parties about their conduct, after the safety and security of its staff and compound were compromised.
“As of 25 March, 2020, political parties were asked to desist from photographing and taking videos of staff members and GECOM’s routine operations,” GECOM said, adding: “In light of the foregoing, the Commission is requesting for party agents to observe the Commission’s security protocol and desist from peddling misinformation in this regard.”
While only one agent per party is allowed within GECOM’s compound on a nightly basis, scores of supporters, particularly those aligned with the PPP/C, have been gathering in the vicinity of the Commission’s headquarter, thereby posing both safety and health concerns.