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PUP is pleased with re-registration commencing but not with an absent electoral commission

The People’s United Party says they are content that the re-registration process has finally begun, but, there are concerns. The PUP is particularly concerned that the Elections and Boundaries Commission has not yet been sworn in. The Government has said that it will happen, right after a special sitting of the Senate which has been scheduled for Thursday, July 5. PUP Party Leader John Briceno had raised the matter before and today in a press conference, PUP Chairman Henry Usher reiterated the Party’s position. Usher also spoke of what they deem as the questionable work, or lack thereof, of the Chair of the Commission, Dough Singh, whose term has not yet expired.

PUP Chairman Henry Usher: We are not happy however that this process started without the Elections and Boundaries Commission being sworn in. We heard the news last night that there will be a special meeting of the senate to approve the members of the commission but we find it wholly unsatisfactory that this commission has not been approved, has not been sworn in even though we have named our commissioners all the way back in April. As you all may know the Election and Boundaries commission term expired the end of April and before that expiration we named our commissioners so there is no reason why this commission could not have been sworn in before. We also find that the commission as a whole, the Chairman of the commission has not really been carrying out his office effectively. We can’t recall getting any reports form the commission as required since 2010 or for at least the last few years we have not gotten any reports from the election and boundaries commission. In fact as far as we know the last meeting of the election and boundaries commission was before the municipal elections in January.

But in a previous press conference, Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai said that her office can take over some of the commission’s functions, adding that the delays have not necessarily interfered with the work of the department.   The PUP sees it differently.

PUP Chairman Henry Usher: I believe that you cannot set policy without having the commission in place. How can one person the Chairman of the commission Mr. Doug Singh be in charge of setting policy. Yes it’s true that the Chief elections officers carries out the day to day workings of the office and the policy that’s set by the commission but they have not met since January and there are big issues happening in this country: one of them is to start with is the budget for this exercise which the Chief elections officer mentioned last night that you know, it’s tight. The 8 million dollars approved is less than half than what was requested by her office. Now not having a commission in place to lobby for that budget is a serious issue. Other issues have raised in other sections of the media including the Guatemalan nationals coming in and being able to register. The commission did not set any policies in regards to that, members of the diaspora, there are a lot of issues the commission could have set policies on but we don’t have a commission and for no good reason because both sides names their commissioners but the government refuse to carry out the process of swearing them in. I still don’t understand why they didn’t do it.

Another matter of concern for the opposition is the absence of the OAS as an observer during this entire process. Usher says that Party Leader John Briceno had written the Prime Minister Dean Barrow on the matter back in May but has yet to receive a response. The PUP expressed that the OAS’s presence is key to avoiding issues on the ground. And after a second day into the process, the PUP says they have come across some of those issues.

PUP Chairman Henry Usher: We understand that the major issues yesterday was in the delays, how long it was taking for persons to get re registered especially in the villages. From our reports we were getting that sometimes 30 minutes to 45 minutes per registered voter which means that for those villages that they are only going to be in for one or two days it is going to be quite impossible for them to register all the voters in those villages so we hope that some more efficiency can be brought into the process for these different villages to carry out that re registration exercise. We’ve also been informed that in the Free town division specifically the UDP was allowed two scrutineers in that office. One for as you know they have not picked their standard bearers as yet so apparently each standard bearer feels like they can put their own scrutineer. This is not part of the process and we call on the Chief elections officer and the Election and Boundaries department to do something about it.