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PPP in move to stymie preparations for polls

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A PPP-backed private citizen and pensioner by the name of Bibi Zeenatoun from Georgetown, has filed legal proceedings against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to halt plans towards the conduct of house-to-house registration.

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The proceedings were filed in High Court and will be represented by A. Nandlall & Associates, the law firm of Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall, as indicated in a release on Tuesday.

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The actions come following the completion of a seven-day deadline set by Nandlall on behalf of GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn for the Commission to cease preparations for house-to-house registration or face litigation. This letter was written to Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and Carbon Copied to the GECOM Chairman Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson on April 2, 2019.

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Meanwhile, in the legal papers, Zeenatoun stated that prior to her retirement in 2014 she worked in the United Kingdom (UK) as a teacher; acquired property there and now receives health benefits from the UK.

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She said that she frequents Guyana to help care for her grandchildren but will be absent from Guyana for a period of five months commencing at the end of May 2019 which means that she will miss the conduct of house-to-house registration

Zeenatoun says she fears that she will be excluded from the proposed exercise and wants house-to-house registration; the creation of a new Official List of Electors and the exclusion of existing qualified registrants to be deemed “illegal, null, void”

Advised by her lawyers, she also says that the Commission ought to engage in continuous registration even as she stated that no laws require proof of residency in Guyana as being an element of qualification for registration. The pensioner also asked the court to grant a writ of prohibition; an injunction and a Conservatory Order to prevent GECOM and its affiliates from conducting the exercise

However, government nominated Commissioners have long stated Nandlall’s legal threat, the most recent case brought against the Commission, is “causing tremendous waste of resources”

On March 15, 2019, private criminal charges filed against Government- nominated Commissioners by one Marcel Gaskin were dismissed at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court by Chief Magistrate Ann Mc Lennan who deemed the charges as having no legal basis or merit. Commissioner Vincent Alexander has stated that the new legal proceedings are no different as house-to-house registration has not only occurred for years in Guyana but has previously been funded by the PPP Government

“We can see that people are operating basically from the standpoint that there is no principle informing people’s behaviour now. It’s a matter of convenience and we’re making a joke of the constitution,” he had said

Meanwhile, he indicated that the system of Claims and Objections provides the opportunity for anyone absent at the conduct of house-to-house registration but present in time for elections, to make a claim to be placed on the list

Similarly, GECOM Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward has stated that measures are in place to ensure that persons, though out of the country at the time of the registration exercise, are granted the opportunity to be placed on the list of registrants

“This house-to-house registration is generating a new national register of registrants. So, once you are in place at the time of registration, you will be registered at your house but that doesn’t mean that because you’re not registered during this exercise that it doesn’t present any other opportunity for you to be registered

Our continuous claims and objections and registration exercises will continue but it’s just that the Commission has made a decision to develop a whole new national register of registrants, which is the database, for a number of reasons which they’ve identified,” she said

Ward had added that the commission’s current actions are in accordance with the majority decision the Commission made in February 2019 to continue with its 2019 work programme