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.
It is being organised by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) under the distinguished patronage of Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange. Jamaica’s rich culture and heritage will be celebrated during the 21st staging of the Emancipation Jubilee at the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann.The annual event, under the theme ‘Emancipation Jubilee: The Genesis’, will be held from July 31 into Emancipation Day on August 1.It is being organised by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) under the distinguished patronage of Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange.Emancipation Jubilee will honour the contribution of the African ancestors through song, dance, drumming, drama, food and fashion.Activities begin at 10:00 a.m. and will feature a farmers’ market, craft village, and food court offering traditional Jamaican cuisine.The highlight of the day will be the signature cultural concert beginning at 8:00 p.m. with the midnight reading of the 1838 Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves on the island.Executive Director of the JNHT, Dorrick Gray, said the concert will feature an exciting line-up of acts, including 2018 Jamaica Festival Song Winner, Nazzle Man; the Charles Town Maroons; Port Morant Kumina Group; Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) gold medal winners in speech, drama and dance, among others.“We want it to be a big celebration in remembrance of our ancestors and the struggles they endured for our freedom… . We have a wide array of cultural groups that will highlight that message of the genesis and who we are as Jamaicans in the 21st century,” he said.Also on July 31, the JNHT will be hosting an Emancipation Jubilee Lecture at the St. Ann Parish Library commencing at 2:00 p.m.The lecture will be delivered by the Executive Director of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, Bernard Jankee.The JNHT, on Wednesday (July 25), opened an exhibition in tribute to the African ancestors at the St. Ann Parish Library, which will run until August 9. Story Highlights The annual event, under the theme ‘Emancipation Jubilee: The Genesis’, will be held from July 31 into Emancipation Day on August 1. Jamaica’s rich culture and heritage will be celebrated during the 21st staging of the Emancipation Jubilee at the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann.