National Stakeholder Consultations on Electoral Law reforms begin
– measures being put in place to prevent repeat of 2020 elections debacle
In keeping with the government’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and transparency in the electoral process, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance today hosted the National Stakeholders Forum at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Over 100 organisations were invited to have their concerns addressed as well as to lodge recommendations. This is one part of the continuous consultation process which began in 2021.
Proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act were presented, as well as two additional proposals: the National Registration (Amendment) Bill, and the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill.
In delivering remarks, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira stated that the consultation process serves as a testimony to the administration’s commitment free and fair elections.
“The Government of Guyana remains committed to creating more robust and coherent elections legislation as part of the democratically developing architecture of One Guyana,” she said.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, stated that the catalyst of the reform process was the 2020 elections debacle. He said a series of provisions were put in place to strengthen the accountability process on voting day.
“We examined the law, and where we found ambiguities, we sought to clarify that. There is not a single proposal on these pieces of paper that are intended to create an electoral advantage for any political party. We are prepared to hear an argument if one feels that there is some bias or prejudice towards any particular sector, or segment of the country. These reforms are good for the system, the process, the country, and for democracy,” he stressed.
Additionally, Regions Three, Four, and Six will be divided into sub-districts, each distinguished by the names and acting independently. Region Three will be separated into three polling sub-districts- namely Essequibo Islands and River, St. Lawrence to Cornelia Ida and Den Amstel to Arabio Creek.
Region Four will be divided into four units: East Bank Demerara, North Georgetown, South Georgetown and East Coast Demerara, while Region Six will be divided into three sub-districts; East Bank Berbice to Canje, Upper Corentyne, and Lower Corentyne. This is to enforce greater levels of accountability and coherence in the electoral process.
In addressing concerns, AG Nandlall noted that the plight of polling agents who have had to go above and beyond to fulfill their duties has been taken into consideration and that measures have been put in place in the amended legislation to ease the burden.
“We have put in the legislation here arrangements for changing of the staff during polling day. There are mechanisms in place for there to be a break, and a change, if possible,” he said.
In response to a concern regarding measures put in place to combat unregistered deaths posing a threat to the credibility of the voters’ list, he expressed that approximately 90 per cent of the deaths within the country are registered, and noted that the floor is open for suggestions on mechanisms to sanitise the voters’ list.
“The PPP/C will never be opposed to any form of scrutiny over the electoral process. In fact, we are championing the cause for more scrutiny. We have always been supportive of a process that makes the system transparent, that makes the system responsible and accountable,” the attorney general declared.
He also reiterated that technology has been and continues to be implemented in the electoral process.
“The current law doesn’t speak to how the statement of poll is to be displayed. Now, we are putting in the law that the statements of poll can be presented manually or electronically. The point is two-fold; one, that it is the statement of poll being projected, and secondly, those who are entitled to participate and observe are given a fair and adequate opportunity to participate and observe,” Minister Nandlall explained.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson Jr., Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Public Affairs, Kwame McCoy, and Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud were also in attendance at the forum.