GEORGETOWN, Guyana, July 18, 2016 (CMC) – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) today, rubbished claims that it was involved in a plan to pad future voters’ lists by sharing its database with the Ministries of Education and Social Services.
Guyana’s main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said it was deeply concerned that some of the information being shared included the confidential details of registrants.
“This is unprecedented in the history of the electoral process in Guyana and since the establishment of GECOM,” PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee, told a news conference on Monday.
He told reporters he does not accept the reasons outlined by GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, describing the alleged plan as “electoral skulduggery” that is being facilitated by the coalition administration of President David Granger.
“Mr. Surujbally is, once again, in the making,” Rohee said, noting that “the use of linkages between GECOM’s and the Ministry of Education’s respective public relations programs, to inveigle GECOM to share, unsolicited, its database with the Ministry of Education, is fraught with unimaginable implications for free and fair elections in Guyana.
Rohee told reporters the justification to share GECOM’s database with the Ministry of Social Protection in order for the Ministry to rectify the names and addresses of pensioners, smacks of deep suspicion that GECOM’s database could be used for other sinister electoral purposes.
“In any event, sharing of GECOM’s database with either of these two Ministries is unnecessary and uncalled for, since both Ministries have the institutional capacity to rectify their respective institutional deficiencies,” Rohee noted.
He said while he could not say whether GECOM was violating any laws by sharing the information, he wanted the electoral body to validate the legality of sharing its database with government agencies.
“The party is of the strong view that the nation must be consulted, in respect to the unsolicited release of confidential personal data of citizens captured in National Register of Registrants (NRR) to government agencies and departments, a practice that has no precedent in Guyana,” he added.
But Surjbally and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, have both dismissed Rohee’s claim.
Surujbally is quoted by the online publication, Demerarawaves, as saying that a completely new house-to-house registration exercise would be held next year, and that this list would be periodically sanitized by continuous registration cycles.
He said party scrutineers would accompany GECOM officials in registering and verifying persons, during the house-to-house exercise.
“There is no padding of any list going on. There was never padding of list during my time,” he said, telling the online publication that the seven-member GECOM had unanimously agreed to share the publicly available database “within the context of collaboration with all entities that have the same purpose to uplift Guyana in relation to activities that are positive to our nation.”
For his part, Lowenfield said that the names and addresses of parents have been shared with the Ministry of Education at its request, to help place students in schools after examinations.
“The Ministry, as a policy standpoint, said they would have to be guided by the addresses as provided by GECOM for these parents who run into problems as far as their addresses are concerned at the time of placement,” he told Demerarwaves.
Lowenfield said only the names and addresses have been provided.