GEORGETOWN, Guyana, July 19, 2019 (CMC) – The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said, today, it would soon commence house-to-house registration, ahead of the next regional and general election, which the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled, earlier this month, must be held within the provisions of the Guyana Constitution.
GECOM said that the countrywide exercise, which begins tomorrow, is in keeping with a decision by the Commission, dating back to February of this year, and “is a legal requirement, according to the National registration Act”.
In its statement, GECOM said upon the conclusion of the house-to-house exercise “a new National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB), which is reflective of the current Guyanese population will be created.
“Subsequently, the Official List of Electors (OLE) will be extracted for the purpose of conducting General and Regional Elections,” GECOM said, adding that all Guyanese, 14 years and older by October 31, this year or a Commonwealth citizen residing here for a period no less than a year, should be registered.
GECOM said that while it is undertaking the registration exercise, “concurrent operational activities for the preparation for the General and Regional Elections are underway”.
“House-to-house registration is a new registration exercise and therefore all eligible persons must register, even if they were previously registered,” GECOM said in a statement.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said that the registration is aimed at preventing the elections from being held this year, in keeping with the ruling of the CCJ, the country’s highest court.
It has warned of taking contempt of court action against GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, should the exercise go ahead.
Earlier this month, the CCJ ruled that it cannot “establish a date on or by which elections must be held” in Guyana, following the successful tabling of a motion of no confidence against the present coalition government of President David Granger last December.
CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders, who delivered the consequential declarations of the Court, said that the CCJ also could “not lay down timelines and deadlines that in principle are the preserves of political actors, guided by constitutional imperatives”.
But he said the CCJ must assume that “these bodies and personages will exercise their responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution, bearing in mind that the no confidence motion was validly passed as long ago as 21st December 2018”.
Under the Guyana Constitution, elections therefore must be held within a 90-day period, following the passage of the motion in the parliament or unless extended by the legislative body.
The CCJ had also concluded that the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired justice James Patterson, had been invalidly appointed and Justice Saunders urged that as a matter of the greatest public importance, “the President and the Leader of the Opposition should, as soon as possible, embark upon and conclude the process of appointing a new GECOM Chairman”.
President Granger and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, have been holding talks on the appointment, but no one has yet been named to replace Patterson, who stepped down following the CCJ ruling.
Granger has already said he is awaiting the advice of the GECOM chairman in order to name a date for the election.