Division of Region Four among new proposed amendments to electoral laws – AG

─ civil society to weigh in

As the process of electoral reform continues, Attorney General and Minister of Legal , Anil Nandlall, M.P revealed that Region Four will now be sub-divided for better management and accountability.

Detailing the major amendments the government has proposed to the Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA), Minister Nandlall explained that the subdivision of the country’s largest electoral district is of grave importance. This, he said, is being promulgated as the government seeks to avoid a recurrence of the protracted events between March and August 2020.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC

“District Four is a special district in the electoral equation of our country. It is the most populated district [and] it always has the greatest number of controversies. So, what we are proposing in these amendments, is we’re subdividing it into four units; the East Bank, the East Coast, North Georgetown, South Georgetown,” the Attorney General explained.

Nandlall noted that the classification will allow for each subdistrict to operate independently, acting as a district by itself.

“Each one is compartmentalised in terms of staff, infrastructure, regulations, and rules and systems and procedure, as if it is an electoral district by itself,” he detailed.

This means that there will be four Returning Officers for the district, which will also allow for decentralisation and higher levels of accountability within the electoral process.

The Attorney General said the main idea behind crafting such an amendment was the eventful, yet gruesome electoral debacle that ensued after former Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, inflated and deflated the number of votes while they were under his purview. The amendment, he stressed, will ensure that such an event ever recurs.

“When you have them together, we saw first hand what the possibilities are for wickedness,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Minister Nandalall noted that the criteria for the selection of polling stations have also been outlined in the government’s proposed amendments to the Act.

“We know what are the criteria that will be used to establish a polling station within a division. What factors will be taken into account, we have to look at the number of voters likely to vote there…we have to look at the distance that a voter has to travel to arrive at the polling station, [and]…the natural environment of the polling station,” the Attorney General explained.

The Attorney General reiterated that there are specific amendments that allow for such achievement by the PPP/C Administration. This, he said, will be realised through the enforcement of the publication of Statements of Poll (SOPs), once the amendments are passed in the National Assembly.

“Upon receipt of the Statements of Poll by the CEO and… the Chairman of the [Guyana Elections Commission] …they must be posted by law, on the GECOM website, where the whole world will see,” he said.

The Attorney General said though the law had once prescribed for these documents to be affixed to a building, the government must now embrace the technological advancement readily available via the internet.

“The idea behind the law was to make the results public as quickly as possible…now we have the magnificence of a technology called internet,” Nandlall went on to say.

Further, the newly proposed alterations clarify what document must be used for the tabulation of votes by the Chief Elections Officer.

“When the tabulated forms are transmitted from the respective Returning Officers to the CEO, those tabulated forms are the only basis for him to come to use in the computation of his results, and that becomes the…final results which he is to put in that report and give to the commission,” he explained.

Minister noted said many other areas addressed in the amendment are now before civil society for consultation.

Upon the completion of the public consultation, the Attorney General will take the proposed amendments to the National Assembly.

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