GECOM closer to ‘a state of readiness’ for LGE – Gunraj

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has taken a decision to adopt a report from the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) confirming changes to constituency boundaries and moving the Commission closer to holding elections – but not without a fight from the Opposition-nominated members of the Commission.

On Tuesday, Government-nominated GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj provided this publication with an update on the statutory meeting and explained that a report confirming the changes to the boundaries was adopted based on a ruling by GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh.

The Opposition Commissioners – Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman – objected to this and claimed, among other things, that the criteria the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government used to alter the boundaries, were decided on since 2009.

“The question is why are they relying on a historic 2009 process, when half of the Commission was not there, in fact of the seven people on the Commission, five were not there in 2009. And this process was conducted in 2016 and 2018, without reference to any such guidelines,” Gunraj questioned.

“They have failed to provide any documentation to confirm the guidelines. They are relying on pieces and bits of minutes and unconfirmed documents. Now after all this back and forth and the Chairman heard all of it, the Chairman ruled that the report will be adopted and we will proceed.”

According to Gunraj, this is nothing more than the latest in a series of delaying tactics by the Opposition Commissioners at GECOM. But he noted that Local Government Elections (LGE) is long overdue and every occasion during which the Government side has tried to remove the obstacles, the Opposition has been hellbent on imposing more obstacles.

“At this stage, once these constituencies are approved as the Chairman has done today, the next step is to extract lists in accordance with those constituencies and by extension the entire country and then have those lists exhibited and go through the process.”

“Once we are done with this, we can set up timelines by which we can inform the Minister that we are in a state of readiness to hold elections. And thereafter he can set the date,” Gunraj noted, confirming that the March 13, 2023 date which was set last year is no longer possible.

It was decided last year that fourteen areas in which boundaries were modified by the former APNU/AFC Government, will be reverted in the lead up to the Local Government Elections when they are held, to allow for better representation.

Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall had announced at a press conference in November that changes were made after consultations with communities and residents in the interest of democracy building.

While the decision was made to revert boundaries to before they were changed in the year 2016, other communities which were previously not captured will be placed under townships and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. In some areas, NDCs will also be merged or split.

“There are 14 areas that were affected in 2018 and we have decided that for better representation, that those areas go back to the 2016 constituency boundaries…We are aware that local democracy is essential to the overall development of communities, our people and our country,” he commented.

In Region One, there will be an extension of the boundaries of Mabaruma township to capture Wauna, putting them under an institutionalised administration. Previously, in 2018 local polls, they were left out of the township as the Minister now assured of zero discrimination.

In Region Two, where the constituency boundaries collapsed or merged, he said this decision of the previous Administration will be reversed. In the Pomeroon River, due to difficulties in service delivery, there will be a merger to form one NDC of Kitty-Providence and Moruca-Felix.

In Region Three, reverted boundaries will also follow for some NDCs to allow for better representation. Meanwhile the Toevlugt-Patentia constituency will be extended to Free and Easy, capturing hundreds of residents.

In Region Four, reverting the boundaries will also be done for some areas where there was a consolidation of NDCs. In Region Five, Woodlands Farm had been expanded to include De Hoop access road residents who were left out of an administrative area.

Other areas such as Mahdia, Lethem, Linden and Georgetown will remain the same. No boundaries have been contracted nor have the number of constituencies reduced, Dharamlall had further explained.

The complement of councillors will also increase in the 80 Local Authority Areas. In 2018, this number was 1192 councillors in 596 constituencies. For the 2023 polls, there will be 1220 councillors in 610 constituencies.