The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said its confidence in the ongoing electoral process has heightened now with the presence of foreign consultants and advisors at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Senior Technical Adviser at the Commonwealth, Dr Afari Gyan has arrived in Guyana to give assistance to GECOM. Additionally, consultants from the United States-based firm, International Republic Institute (IRI), that will be providing technical support to GECOM are also here.
The Elections Commission is also expecting the arrival of another advisor from India by the end of this month.
In addition to consultants and advisors, GECOM is currently processing applications for local observers including the foreign missions here in Guyana. The Foreign Affairs Ministry is dealing with applications for international observers and already, several organisations have received approval.
In fact, a team from the Commonwealth Secretariat is currently in the country to do some advance preparations for its observer mission, while the US-based Carter Center has already begun its observatory tenure. Reports are that the European Union is also mobilising an observer mission.
Over the past weeks, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had expressed concerns over the lack of international presence here as he questioned several decisions being made by GECOM.
However, at his recent press conference on Thursday, the Opposition Leader expressed confidence in the Elections Commission now that the foreign consultants are here. In fact, he has already met with the Commonwealth advisor.
“We have great faith in the international community presence in GECOM. We’re working hard to ensure that we have a strong presence in the polling place to look out for any attempts to tamper with the elections,” he posited.
According to Jagdeo, they have already heard talks about violence on polling day. This, he noted, was brought to the attention of some players in the international community, who have requested additional details, like names.
The Opposition Leader had previously complained of the PPP having to constantly block efforts at the level of the Elections Commission to tamper with the voters’ lists. However, he noted that the room for such attempts is narrow now, not with PPP’s vigilance but the presence of the international community.
“They recognised now that with the international presence in there, and with enhanced vigilance on the part of the [GECOM] Commissioners, the international community and us bringing these matters to the media’s attention and the Guyanese public on a weekly basis, that the room to tamper with the list is narrowing,” he posited.
One such attempt on the voters’ list that Jagdeo mentioned is an ongoing exercise by GECOM to update the information of existing registrants on the National Register of Registrants using data obtained from the scrapped House-to-House exercise.
Last week, the PPP had accused GECOM of tampering with the NRR database – an allegation which GECOM had denied. In fact, GECOM’s Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh had explained that they were merely using recent data captured during the H2H exercise to update registrants’ information.
However, Jagdeo contended that the Commission is using data that was unverified. But despite this, he insisted at his Thursday press conference that GECOM should release all the changes being made to the NRR so that parties can verify them.
“If we can’t stop these changes… then all the political parties must get a list of the changes made so we can verify what those changes are when OLE (Official List of Electors) comes out, and we will check the OLE again,” he posited.
According to Jagdeo, the PPP has already raised concerns of this exercise with the international community.
“So we were very surprised, and I have since brought this to the attention of the consultants who came in – one arrived here from the Commonwealth and I had a meeting with him, and I pointed out that nobody within GECOM should really be making large-scale changes to the RVL (Revised Lists of Electors) now that the statutory processes are now over but that is precisely what is happening there,” the Opposition Leader noted.
Meanwhile, the GECOM Chairperson had told reporters last week that the electoral body is fully ready to deliver free and fair elections on March 2, 2020.
Justice Singh had stated on the sidelines of Nomination Day proceedings that there is only one way she knows and that is the path she will take to ensure that the voters’ list is clean and the General and Regional Elections are credible.
“I will not sell my integrity for all of the oil in Guyana”, she declared.