Today is the second of September 2005.
I wish to speak with you tonight about
the state of preparations for the holding of elections next
year, the delays by the Guyana Elections Commission in both
decision making and positive action, especially the commencement
of the Continuous Registration process which was initially
projected to start since April this year and was rescheduled to
have begun yesterday, and the possible consequences of this
COMMITTED TO HOLDING OF ELECTIONS
Allow me to restate at the outset that
the Peoples National Congress Reform is committed to the holding
of and participating in General and Regional Elections in Guyana
as soon as possible. Our
only demand - if one wishes to use that word - is no more, and
no less, than what is demanded by our Constitution and required
by our Electoral Laws.
ALL THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA MUST WIN AFTER THE NEXT ELECTIONS
It is my hope that after the next
election, there will be ONE vital winner. GUYANA.
The people of Guyana must win after the next election is
held. Our painful
experiences tell us that we must have a properly run election
that is satisfactory to all.
I believe this is a view held by the overwhelming
majority of Guyanese.
Our next election must be free, fair
and transparent in every way. Most stakeholders in Guyana and
the Donor Community must be aware of what are the minimum
conditions for this to be achieved. The Opposition Parties have
not left it to chance. We have over the past four months met
with most stakeholders in Guyana and explained our position on
After these elections, no person,
political party or interest group must have any reasonable
grounds for complaint. That
should be GECOMís objective. The responsibility for meeting
these standards and achieving this objective rests squarely on
the shoulders of GECOMís Chairman, Mr. Steve Surujbally, its
six Commissioners and its Secretariat who must have consulted
their stakeholders to ascertain their concerns.
DEADLINE HAS PASSED AND GECOM HAS
FAILED TO KEEP THE PUBLIC INFORMED
Yesterday was the date publicly
announced by Dr. Steve Surujbally as the new date when
Continuous Registration would begin.
The first of September was therefore a most important
date Ė the day when our young people who will attain age
eighteen by the date of the election would have had the
opportunity to be registered to ensure that they are qualified
to vote for the first time in the forthcoming elections.
However, since the date of election is not yet known,
GECOM is required to make an order specifying a qualifying date
and the age which persons must have attained to be eligible for
registration. To date no such publication has been done.
IS THERE CONTEMPT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
As I speak with you, this deadline has
come and gone without so much as a word, a comment or an
explanation by those who hold Constitutional responsibility and
who are accountable for putting in place the technical
arrangements for next yearís election.
Dr. Surujbally is out of the country.
Where he is, we know not.
For what purpose he departed, we know not.
GECOMís six Commissioners are silent. The Chief
Election Officer is silent. GECOMís statutory meeting this
week was cancelled. For
what reason, we know not.
We can only conclude that the contempt
for citizens that has long characterized relationships between
the Government and people of this country is infectious.
GECOM, which, in violation of the Constitution, is now
annexed as one of Governmentís Ďbudget agenciesí
has caught the disease of not informing people and has
now demonstrated its contempt for the young people of this
GECOM IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR PNCRíS
The PNCR, relying on GECOMís promise
that Continuous Registration would have commenced yesterday,
organized - at considerable expense - a training programme for
our proposed scrutineers from all over Guyana on Saturday 27th
last. Regrettably we were unable to receive from GECOM reliable
information on their approved procedures to make our training
programme meaningful. We hold GECOM responsible for the
unnecessary expenditure that we incurred.
NO INFORMATION FROM GECOM
All of the Parliamentary Opposition
Parties harboured fears that the deadline of September first
would not be met. It is for this reason that we tried, albeit in
vain, to insist that GECOM produce to the National Assembly of
the Parliament their time bound Election Project plan and the
Subsidiary legislation to govern Registration.
Accordingly, we wrote Dr. Surujbally on
the nineteenth of August requesting an urgent meeting before the
first of September so that he could bring us all up to date on
progress made since the passage of the National Registration
(Amendment) Act on July 14, 2005 and the motion passed on August
4, 2005 calling for Parliamentary Support of the MOU signed by
GECOM, the Government of Guyana and the Donor Community.
In order to prepare Dr. Surujbally, his
Commissioners and his secretariat for this meeting, we told him
that among other issues, our Parties wished to be informed about
the status of five specific matters which were listed in our
letter. Our concerns were obvious because of;
GECOM CHAIRMAN ADMITS DIFFICULTIES
Dr. Surujballyís reply of 26th
August did not shed any new light on these issues.
He confirmed that most of these issues were still being
discussed and debated by his Commissioners.
He explained that difficulties were being encountered in
establishing dates and timelines for the elections project.
And finally, he proposed from the 7th
September 2005 onwards as the new time frame for the meeting.
These are the facts. What conclusions
can we draw at this time? I leave that judgment to you.
Nearly three years ago all political
parties agreed to the introduction of Continuous Registration in
Guyana. As you
know, the original position of the PNCR was that a precondition
for introducing this system should be the creation of a new
database derived from a new Registration exercise with the
inclusion of live-scan fingerprints or biometrics.
It has been conveniently forgotten
that, in accordance with existing regulations of the National
Registration Act, every person registered must provide
information about himself or herself, including fingerprints as
a unique identifier of the person so registered.
The only outstanding question is what would be the most
efficient and cost-effective way of collecting fingerprints so
that the identity of a registrant could be quickly confirmed,
thereby guarding against double or multiple registration.
Experiences of GECOM during the Registration process before the
2001 Elections should have made decision making on this issue
very simple and expeditious. Regrettably, this has not been the
PNCR HAS MADE SEVERAL COMPROMISES
You should be aware of the compromises
which the PNCR made on several important electoral issues. For
To date there has been no
implementation of any of these compromises.
We believe that GECOM must be made to account to the
nation now; not later when further
problems arise. For
our part, we remain committed to the democratic process and to
the holding of Elections according to acceptable international
standards. These standards have been spelt out in the MOU and
the signatories have undertaken to meet under the scrutiny of
domestic and international observers of the entire electoral
DIFFICULTIES MUST BE FACED AND NOT
SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET
If there are difficulties, these must
be admitted. They
must not be swept under the carpet to haunt us later.
The PNCR, as a responsible political party, has always
been and remains willing, able and prepared to engage in good
faith political discussions in the interest of all the people of
Guyana. However, it
has to be recognized and accepted by all that we have a
responsibility to a vast number of Guyanese who expect us to
represent their interests. We will not shirk from that
DENIAL OF EQUITABLE ACCESS TO STATE
My decision to speak with you at this
time has been influenced by the continued refusal of the
Government to honour their commitments to equitable access to
the state media by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and the
deliberate distortion of our positions on the essential
requirements for acceptable elections in Guyana.
I would therefore like to place on public record the
position of the PNCR, and indeed, the entire Parliamentary
WE MUST NOT REPEAT THE MISTAKES OF THE
Our historical experience with General
Elections is sufficient to motivate us all to urgently resolve
all problematic issues which have bedeviled us in the past.
GECOMís charge is to restore and maintain public
confidence in the Electoral process; to address every reasonable
cause for complaint by any contesting political party before,
during or after the Elections.
Regrettably, GECOMís performance to
date and the utterances from the PPP indicate that conditions
are being created for us to make the same mistakes again.
However, as a responsible political party we have a duty to
place these matters in the public domain at this early stage,
irrespective of the contrived propaganda about our motives, so
that no one can claim to be unaware of the essential issues, as
well as the possible consequences of failure to address them.
PNCR REMAINS COMMITTED TO HOLDING
As I stated before, we are committed to
the holding of, and participating in, General and Regional
Elections within the Constitutional time frame.
We expect those elections to be conducted within the Law. We insist that the expectations of the major stake holders
for free fair and transparent elections must be met. We cannot accept any procedures that do not satisfy what are
the minimum conditions required by Law.
It should be known by now that we have never been
intimidated by those who indulge in misinformation and false
These are some of the matters likely to
jeopardize the holding Elections in accordance with the
would be irresponsible of me to be alarmist.
It is my duty to give you the facts as we know them and
as related to us by the GECOMĒs Chairman.
We leave it to you to conclude what these facts indicate
and what they foreshadow.
OPPOSITION PARTIES NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR
What I will say is this.
The Parliamentary Opposition Parties, and particularly
the PNCR, accept no responsibility for these delays.
We hold GECOM (Its Chairman, its Commissioners and its
Secretariat) and the Government of Guyana totally responsible
for these unfortunate developments.
In conclusion, let me once again state
our position. We
are committed to elections as soon as possible.
Our demand is no more, and no less than the demand that
is found in the letter and spirit of our Constitution and our
electoral laws. We
cannot, and will not, accept anything less and understand the
recently signed MOU to be a solemn undertaking by Government,
the donors and GECOM as an autonomous Commission to be similarly
We will engage in a continuing
political struggle to ensure that acceptable standards are met. If it becomes necessary, our supporters, our well-wishers and
all Guyanese must be prepared to undertake further political
action to ensure that their Constitutional rights to freely
express their will in elections are never subverted.
DELAYS SEEMS DESIGNED TO FRUSTRATE
OPPOSITION PARTIES PROPOSALS
We know of the experiences of our
friends and experts in India, Jamaica, other Caribbean countries
and numerous democracies. Haiti,
despite its enormous political, economic, security and other
difficulties, will register over two million voters using
biometric fingerprinting in time for elections before the end of
We therefore know that the registering
of not more than 400,000 Guyanese voters is by no means a
monumental task but we have been discussing these matters for
more than two years. GECOM has chosen not to inform itself of
the experiences of our Caribbean neighbours.
GECOM has chosen not to present a single comprehensive
proposal or quotation that would enable informed decisions to be
taken about what is possible in Guyana.
The inescapable conclusion is that
there are deliberate efforts being made to frustrate the call of
the opposition parties for the use of live scan fingerprinting,
biometrics, and the conduct of house to house verification of
the OLE by the creation of extended delays to justify the
argument that there is not enough time. There can be no
compromise on matters of such fundamental importance.
LETS WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE ALL GUYANA
As Leader of the Opposition, I believe
I have complied with my constitutional responsibility that
requires me to consult with all Parliamentary Opposition
Parties. We have
discussed these matters continuously over the past five months.
We have been meeting with all stakeholders.
We will continue to work for the conduct of elections
that meet the required technical and professional standards.
We believe that we must all raise our
voices and insist on transparency and fairness in the electoral
process and so avoid the disharmony and dislocation that has
attended recent elections.
It is our hope that GECOM, its
Chairman, its Commissioners and its Secretariat will be open
with us and share their difficulties so that we can all work
together to ensure that GUYANA wins this time around to ensure
the safe, secure and productive future that all Guyanese hope
for. We will
continue to update you on developments.
May God continue to bless all of us and
guide our Nation.