Voters list Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes that there is no need to remove the names of Guyanese who are overseas from the Official List of Electors (OLE), saying that enhanced scrutiny at the polling stations can prevent any attempt at illegal voting.Speaking at his weekly press conference last week, Jagdeo pointed out that it would be unconstitutional to remove people’s names from the voters’ list, especially if those persons are overseas for short-term visits.“You cannot remove people’s name from a list if you’re simply abroad because what if you abroad for two or five months? Then you will lose your rights to vote, because your name would not be on the voters’ list,” he argued.However, the Opposition Leader noted that his party – the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – is not interested in working out a deal with the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government either.He made this statement recalling that for the 1997 elections, the PPP had done that with the then People’s National Congress (PNC) Opposition, which is the leading party in the APNU alliance, and ended up losing two years of its term in office owing to litigation filed by the PNC.“PNC and PPP agreed to use voters’ ID as identification absolutely necessary for voting. The same PNC, after losing elections, filed a case that the use of ID is unconstitutional and the elections were vitiated. We lost two years of our term, not because there was fraudulent elections, but because the arrangement we made with PNC was deemed unconstitutional. So we’re not interested in making no arrangements like that, so they can go challenge it again,” he asserted.Moreover, he also ruled out using immigration records to cleanse the OLE, saying that it would not properly reflect the movement of Guyanese, since persons leave through the Suriname ‘Backtrack’ route and through Lethem as well.Instead, Jagdeo suggested that a parallel list be prepared in addition to the OLE, which would still have the names of overseas Guyanese.“So each Presiding Officer will have the Official List of Electors and they would have a list of the immigration records of people who have been abroad for over three months,” he noted.This way, according to the Opposition, if someone from the immigration list shows up to vote, then an alarm should be raised and that person will be thoroughly vetted and scrutinised before being allowed to vote.“Enhance scrutiny so you don’t have to worry about people aboard voting. So that was what we suggested (as to) how you address it. Not by removing people’s name from the OLE; that would be unconstitutional. (You) can’t remove them just like that, but have to enhance the safeguards that they don’t vote,” he reasoned.Extra polling agentsFurther, Jagdeo, a former Head of State himself, said he had also suggested to President David Granger that monies be set aside to hire extra polling agents, in addition to those appointed by the parties, and to have an observer in each of the 2200 polling stations to lessen the chances of illegal voting and ensure that those eligible to vote are able to do so.“Besides, GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission), themselves, have been arguing how robust their system with the Presiding Officer is. So, you would not have people, even with their names on the list and they may be abroad, they wouldn’t be able to vote and that would work well with us because we don’t steal no votes,” the Opposition Leader noted.Jagdeo’s comment on the issue of overseas Guyanese voting comes on the heels of Government’s spokesperson, Minister of State Joseph Harmon last week saying Guyanese living overseas who usually return home to vote during local elections may not get the opportunity to do so at the upcoming polls.Harmon said that once overseas-based Guyanese were not here to register during the house-to-house registration exercise, then they would not be included on the voters’ list and as such, would not be allowed to vote at the next elections.“It’s not a matter of dis-enfranchising anyone. Our laws do not provide for overseas voting save and except those persons who are in the employ of the State and are in the embassies, and so on, abroad. So persons who are Guyanese residents abroad, at the time of house-to-house if you are not here, then certainly your name cannot be on the list. That is why house-to-house is so important,” he asserted.Only last week during a meeting with the GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson and the Commissioners, officials from the US-based Carter Center suggested, among other things, that a list of non-resident persons be generated to use on Election Day to identify substitute voters and/or illegal voters.GECOM has already rolled out its 2019 work programme, which includes the conduct of house-to-house registration, something which has been a topic of contention between the Opposition and Government-nominated Commissioners at the elections body.Nevertheless, the Commission had voted to go ahead with House-to-House registration, which Chairman Patterson had indicated would conclude in November. In fact, he informed the Head of State in a letter that polls could not be held before late November 2019 and the elections body needed some $3.5 billion to prepare for the hosting of elections.
…as payment for father’s ganja habitThe pastor of a church in Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) has given a father an ultimatum to report a sexual act committed by a drug dealer on his 16-year-old daughter or he will report it himself.Guyana Times understands that the father sent the teenager to collect marijuana from his supplier, who lives at Number Two East Canje. However, the drug dealer forced himself on the teenager before supplying the drug.This publication has been reliably informed that the father is indebted to the supplier and has difficulty meeting his financial obligations incurred by his illicit habit.A pastor, who reached out to this newspaper and who is very popular in the community, reported that he has given the father the ultimatum to report the matter or he will go to the Police himself.
The ruling Congress and Opposition BJP in Rajasthan have started the exercise for identifying candidates for by-elections to two Assembly seats — Mandawa and Khinvsar — scheduled for October 21. After facing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the bypolls will be a challenge for the Congress, while the BJP pins its hopes on new State president Satish Poonia.The by-elections were necessitated after the sitting MLAs vacated the seats following their election to Lok Sabha. Mandawa MLA Narendra Khichar won as the BJP MP from Jhunjhunu, while Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MLA from Khinvsar, Hanuman Beniwal, won from Nagaur after his regional party entered into an alliance with the BJP and joined the NDA just before general elections.The candidates’ nominations can be filed till September 30 and the date for withdrawal of candidature will be October 3. After the polling on October 21, the results will be declared on October 24, according to the Election Commission.Impact on civic pollsThe by-elections are important for Congress because of their perceptible impact on the municipal polls due in November this year, for which the rival factions in the party wish to field their favourite candidates with the winning potential. Moreover, the party wants to send across a message of its effective governance even after its defeat at all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the State.For the BJP, the appointment of Mr. Poonia — a Jat leader with strong association with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — as the party chief may help at the two Jat-dominated seats. The party is yet to make up its mind on entering into alliance with the RLP, though former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje may not play a major role in the candidates’ selection, unlike in the Lok Sabha polls.Mr. Beniwal said on Monday that the RLP-BJP alliance would contest both the Assembly seats and he would like to field his party’s candidate in Khinvsar. “We are willing to support the BJP candidate in Mandawa. The final decision will be take at a meeting of office-bearers of both the parties in a couple of days,” he said.The Congress, which has strengthened its position in the State Assembly after the recent merger of six Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs, may give ticket to a member of Nagaur district’s influential Mirdha family. The party has lost the Khinvsar seat during the last three successive elections, as Mr. Beniwal won first on the BJP ticket in 2008 and later as an Independent in 2013 and as the RLP candidate in 2018.Mandawa was earlier considered a stronghold of veteran Congress leader Ram Narayan Chaudhary, who died in 2012. His daughter Rita Chaudhary defeated Mr. Khichar in 2008, but the latter emerged victorious as an Independent in 2013 and and as a BJP candidate in 2018.