Guyana – Smooth elections, says officer

GEORGETOWN –– Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield today said that except for a few glitches such as the malfunctioning of some of the official six-digit stamps and some polling stations not opening at the 6 a.m. scheduled time, the country’s national and regional elections had commenced smoothly.

Hundred-year-old Edna Cadogan, a former teacher of Rama Krishna Primary, being helped out of the school after voting today.
Hundred-year-old Edna Cadogan, a former teacher of Rama Krishna Primary, being helped out of the school after voting today.

Lowenfield, speaking at the first Press conference of the day just after midday and first as CEO on elections day at the commission’s Kingston command centre, said the issue with the malfunctioning of the stamp was quickly rectified. This occurred at the Central High School, where some voters protested, and it also occurred in Districts 6 and 2. The stamp has to be used on ballot papers before being given to voters.

The CEO also announced that there was an “unfortunate situation” in District 3 (West Demerara and Essequibo Islands) where the polling staff had issued tendered ballots for voting, but he said corrective actions were taken and an investigation had been launched. Tendered ballots are issued in cases where there is doubt about the eligibility of voters.

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr Steve Surujbally, said that he was particularly disturbed by the failure of the stamps since the commission had paid “good money” for same. He named Code International as the company that provided the stamps and said discussions would have to be had with the company since it had sold the commission substandard equipment. Surujbally did point out that the commission had had a long history with the company and that this was the first time such issues had arisen.

The chairman also raised the issue of some people turning up to vote with their old, decommissioned identification cards which he said would not be accepted by the polling staff. Persons, he said would either have to return home for the current identification card or an oath would be administered to them before they would be able to vote.

A report of polling staff being disrespectful in Region 3 was also being investigated and, according to Surujbally, there were complaints of police officers being inside the polling stations which should not be. They are to be outside.

Asked about the process which should be observed when photographs of government officials such as President Donald Ramotar and Minister of Education Priya Manickchand are in classrooms that are being used as polling stations, Lowenfield said staff were aware that they should be removed or covered. Surujbally doubted this newspaper’s report that there was one such incident in one of the polling stations at the St Gabriel’s Primary School which saw APNU candidate Keith Scott having to bring the issue to the attention of officials who then removed the photographs. This was witnessed by this newspaper’s reporter.

Meanwhile, Lowenfield said the commission up to noon today had been in contact with the political parties and there had been no major incident, although he confirmed reports had been received that the police may have arrested a man for attempting to snatch a ballot box in South Georgetown. However, he made it clear that it was alleged as there was no confirmation of this report.

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