Verification checks show 1997 voters' list grossly inflated

Stabroek News
September 8, 2000

The PNC will pass to the Elections Commission, the information it has so far gathered from the verification checks by its activists on the National Register of Registrants (NRR).

General Secretary, Oscar Clarke, told a Congress Place press conference on Wednesday that the information related to names which should not be on the list as well as those which should be on but had been left off.

Earlier, Desmond Hoyte the PNC leader told reporters that Clarke had written to Chairman of the Elections Commission, Joe Singh, expressing concern that the "1997 final voters' list was grossly inflated, particularly in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Nine," as a consequence of:

Multiple registration of the same person using the same name or other names within a particular region and/or in different regions;

Registration of under-aged persons;

Registration of Guyanese outside Guyana;

Registration of non-existing persons in selected areas such as: Region 1

(Barima/Waini) - Imbotero, White Water - Wauna, Forest Enterprise, Santa Rosa - Moruka; Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) - Golden Fleece, Cullen, Perseverance, Aurora, Huis't Dieren; Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara - Zeelugt, Tuschen, Meten-Meer-Zorg, Cornelia Ida, Private Lands, Canal Number Two left bank, Middlesex, the Buff; Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) - East Coast Demerara, Mahaica River, Cane Grove, Enterprise, Lusignan, Mon Repos, Better Hope, East Bank Demerara, Grove/ Diamond Place;

Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice) - Mahai-cony River; Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) - Oreal-la, Crabwood Creek, Number 47 Village, Number 64 Village, Mibicuri, Yakusari, Albion, Nigg Settlement, Guava Bush, Doctor Bush, East Canje; Region Nine (Upper Essequibo/Upper Takutu - Karasabai, Shulinab (Macushi), Toka, Pakani/ Smyths, Manariwau/Ara-kwai.

Hoyte observed that "of deep concern to the PNC is the fact that some regions recorded an extraordinary increase on the electorate and an equally astonishing increase in voter turnout."

He explained that in Region One "voter registration had leaped from 8,712 in 1992 to 12,337 in 1997 - an increase of 41%. And voter turnout rose dramatically from 54 per cent in 1992 to 83 per cent in 1997."

Both Hoyte and Clarke said that these irregularities had gone unnoticed because of the inaccessibility of some of the locations identified and the deficiencies in the monitoring by the party scrutineers.

Hoyte said that "the PNC did not intend to sit back idly and allow these fantastic numbers to disfigure the voters' list and results at the next elections".

He said too that in addition to the inflated voters' list in these areas, there was also the problem of persons who were disenfranchised by the simple technique of not extracting their names from the national register for inclusion in the 1997 voters' list, even though these persons had been processed during the 1996 National Registra-tion exercise.

Hoyte also accused the government of obstructing the work of purifying the voters' list and charged that the Statistical Bureau had dragged its feet and responded to political pressure in providing, after unconscionable delays, a projection of population growth since the 1991 Census requested by the Elections Commis-sion. He said that the information was given to the commission at the end of last week, the time when the work to be done with the information was scheduled to be completed.

Chief Statistician, Lennox Benjamin, in an invited comment said that he considered Hoyte's remarks unfair, considering that they had been made out of full knowledge of the bureau's operations. He explained that when the request was made he had explained to the commission that the Bureau was spread very thinly as it was in the process of carrying out a survey.

Also, he said that he had explained that it was a time when some of its staff were on leave or on training courses away from the Bureau. He explained too that the Bureau's only qualified demographer was engaged in a survey and that the Bureau would try to see what resources could be diverted to accommodate the request.

Benjamin said that resources had to be diverted from that survey to work on the population projections requested by the commission. He added that given the resources available to the Bureau it had provided the information as quickly as was humanly possible.

Benjamin explained that the request was made on August 21, the date of its first engagement with the commission and that the timetable set for completing the task for which the information was required was set without any input by the Bureau.

He denied that the Bureau had been subjected to any political pressure as his minister was not even informed of the request. The minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for finance, Saisnarine Kowles-sar has the ministerial portfolio for the bureau.

Benjamin noted that the information supplied to the commission was not unique since the projection was based on certain assumptions. Other assumptions would provide different projections.

He stressed that the Bureau did not want to be perceived as part of the electoral process or be caught up in the politics of the situation.

Hoyte also took the PPP to task for its "tongue in cheek" concern about the commission retaining the services of Haslyn Parris and Deryck Bernard whom he described as "persons of known integrity, professionalism and expertise."

Hoyte explained that Parris, Bernard as well as Professor Clive Thomas, about whom the PPP also expressed concern, had been retained "to assist in designing the methodology for the conduct of a field survey to verify the accuracy of the National Register. Mr [Donald] Ramotar's [PPP general secretary] objection is perverse, given the purely technical nature of the tasks these two experts have been invited to perform."

Hoyte said that Bernard and Parris were among a group of experts, invited by the commission on which three of its representatives sit, as a result of their acknowledged expertise, to advise it on how to address concerns raised by the political parties.

Ramotar said that prominent political activists such as Parris, Bernard and Thomas should not be involved with any committee which has responsibility for the discharge of any function of the commission without the usual consultation process. He said too that they were not the only persons in the country with the expertise that the commission had required.

Those invited by the commission beside Bernard, Dr Thomas and Parris were Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture, Andrew Bishop, whose expertise is in demography; Malcolm Rodrigues, physicist and environmental scientist. Parris is an expert in statistics, Bernard in geography, demography and statistics and Thomas an internationally acclaimed macro-economist.

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