GECOM commissioner rejects allegation that voters’ list unverified

Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) commissioner and Attorney-at-Law, Sase Gunraj, on Wednesday dispelled claims that lists submitted by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition Government were not verified by the elections commission.

The lists, which alleged that the names of dead and migrated persons were used to vote in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections were submitted during the national recount exercise.

GECOM commissioner and Attorney-at-Law, Sase Gunraj

In responding to a letter by APNU+AFC Chief Scrutineer, Carol Joseph, sent to Chairman of GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, the PPP/C- nominated commissioner explained that the chairman at the time had, in fact, sent the lists to both the immigration department and the general registry office and received responses.

At the time, the commission did not have the legal authority to deal with the complaints, as they fell within the domain of Article 163 of the constitution, giving jurisdiction of the matter to the high court.

As a consequence, no further actions were taken with the information.

“Now, as a consequence of that, and what I have in my hand is a letter under the hand of Carol Smith-Joseph, the chief scrutineer of the APNUAFC, which I have already seen in the public domain, which makes certain requests as a consequence of that,” Gunraj stated.

The letter alleged that the entirety of the list supplied by the APNU+AFC to GECOM was not sent for verification.

However, Gunraj rejected this notion, explaining that all that was received was sent by the commission to the relevant statutory agencies for verification.

“It is clear that what is happening here is that the fear is palpable… the fear on the part of the persons who made that naked attempt to rig those elections; their fear is now palpable. They are trying to cover their bases because their insidious attempt is now being unraveled and exposed. And they are attempting now to assail this process, and assail what was said,” he relayed.

He asserted, however, that he had received the aforementioned documents during his tenure as a GECOM commissioner.

He also touched on the issue of the appointment of Ms. Beverly Critchlow as the Assistant Chief Elections Officer.

Gunraj noted the allegations made by APNU+AFC-appointed GECOM commissioner Vincent Alexander that the appointment process was a contrived one, despite it utilising a majority vote system.

“That is disingenuous at best. You have a process at the parties-when I say parties, all the commissioners subscribed to-from start to end, and you had no complaints. However, at the time—as late as last week, when commissioners were making submissions in relation to their preference as to candidate, there were no complaints,” he said.

While it was clear, he said, that opposition commissioners expressed a stated preference to have Melania Marshall as the assistant chief elections officer, the majority voted to appoint Critchlow due to her wealth of knowledge and experience at GECOM.

“The justification for that has been set out in a press release issued by the Guyana Elections Commission… But you could also see the external influence that they are trying to exert on the elections commission,” he stated.

Gunraj was referring to a gathering of persons outside GECOM protesting the appointment.

“But you can see these bald attempts that they are making to intimidate the chairman. Thankfully, the chairman as she has said publicly, just the other day, makes her decisions based on the law, and even that is being challenged by commissioners from the other side,” he noted.