GECOM taken to court over house-to-house registration

first_img– as private citizen seeks injunction against “unconstitutional” exerciseGECOM Chairman, retired Justice James PattersonAfter warning the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to desist from house-to-house registration or face the law, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has filed legal proceedings against the Commission.In the legal documents seen by this publication and filed by Nandlall on behalf of his client, Bibi Zeenatoun, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and GECOM are named as respondents.In the fixed date application, the former AG sets out that the house-to-house registration is unconstitutional. It is noted that they are seeking a declaration of this and the fact that the exercise will exclude qualified registrants currently on the National Register and the official list of electors.In particular, the application is seeking a declaration that Zeenatoun herself will be excluded and thus, have her constitutional right to vote breached. According to the application, Zeenatoun is a retired teacher and citizen of Guyana who is registered to vote.The application explains that she worked in the United Kingdom from 1980 until her retirement in 2014. She then acquired property and maintained a residence in that country. Besides her citizenship, however, she has family ties to Guyana that include an adult son and his two children.“For seven months during the year, she returns to Guyana to help care for my grandchildren and guide them in their academic studies. The Applicant has voted in elections in Guyana as recent as the 2018 Local Government Elections.”“The Applicant, during her current stay in Guyana, became aware of conflicting statements by the Respondents, through public statements transmitted in the local news, regarding the existing National Register of Registrants and plans by the Respondent to conduct house-to-house registration.”As an example, the claimants cited Lowenfield’s comments carried in the February 5 edition of sections of the media that “the voters’ list is clean and valid, with a life until the 30th of April”.They went on to cite comments from GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander about the need to cleanse the list anyway, then Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s comments that persons who are overseas when the enumerators pay their houses a visit cannot be a part of the voters’ list.“The Applicant will be absent from Guyana for a period of five months commencing from the end of May 2019 and will, therefore, not be at her local place of residence [in person] during the period being proposed by GECOM to conduct the said house-to-house registration.”According to the application, Zeenatoun “fears that she will be excluded from the proposed exercise of house-to-house registration and thereby, in effect, be de-registered and in consequence thereof, and she will be unlawfully denied her statutory and constitutional right to be registered and to vote”.“The Applicant’s right to vote will and can be protected if the Respondents were to engage in Continuous Registration as provided for in Section 6 (1) of the National Registration Act Cap. 19:08,” the application advises.Besides the aforementioned declarations, Nandlall is seeking from the High Court a Writ of Prohibition, injunction and conservatory order against GECOM, restraining the respondents, either themselves or their agents, from carrying out house-to-house registration. He is also seeking costs and any other orders the court awards.First movePreviously, it had been People’s Progressive Party nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn who had made the first move towards the law to stop house-to-house registration from happening.In a correspondence seen by this publication, Benn threatened to move to the courts if the Guyana Elections Commission had persisted. Nandlall, who was representing Benn, had explained in an interview with this publication that this exercise could potentially disenfranchise overseas-based voters who normally return home to exercise their franchise.“In relation to dead people, I concede readily that that process of removing dead persons from the list should be one that should be pursued, but that shouldn’t require house-to-house registration. That can easily be accomplished by an exchange of data between the registrar of deaths and the GECOM.”“Because the registrar of deaths will be able to say how many persons have been recorded as dead over the past few years. And that data can be juxtaposed against the list and those persons removed by a very simple engagement, with relative speed and ease in this technological age.”Nandlall had explained that when GECOM staff go house to house and cannot find persons on the list living in Guyana, such persons will be de-registered. The former AG noted that Articles 59 and 159 provides for everyone to vote at elections once they are qualified and registered.“What I have a problem with is the process that will remove persons on the list who are resident overseas. Our Constitution does not require residency in Guyana as a qualification to be registered to vote. Our Constitution is very clear. Once you are 18 years or over, Guyanese and registered, you can vote.”“So you have Guyanese citizens, thousands of them, who are registered but when this exercise is completed, they will not find themselves in the new list and they will become disqualified through no fault of their own,” he had said.Chief Elections Officer Keith LowenfieldThe Guyana Elections Commissionlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *