Elections Watch

Stabroek News
March 20, 2001

Observers forced to leave polling stations

Angry crowds forced international observers to retreat from south Georgetown polling stations around close of poll yesterday as voters' frustrations boiled over.

According to officials in the Long-Term Observer Group and European Union missions, up to four of their teams in the East and West Ruimveldt areas as well as at Victoria on the East Coast left polling stations around the close of poll while frustrated voters were still trying to cast ballots. In some cases taxi drivers accompanying the teams urgently advised the observers to leave.

When Stabroek News visited the East Ruimveldt Secondary School at 9:00 pm and persons were still voting. Elections Commission Chairman Major General (rtd) Joe Singh at a press conference condemned any threats against observers, although he was unaware of the particular instances. He asked for reports on the late closing of polls in Region Four.

Observer groups noted the numbers of persons unable to vote as they were not on the list. Some said it was "definitely an issue" which affected communities in many areas of the country. But it was too early to quantify the problem and assess its impact on the results. At least 1,600 people in Regions Three and Six were said to be affected.

Meanwhile the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) fielded a continuous 12 hours of 1,000 calls from voters trying to find their names on the lists. An official noted that the biggest problem was persons with stubs or ID cards whose names were not on the list. Officials said they had managed to find some names in different divisions but others were indeed left off the list. A reconciliation of these numbers may be ready today. The EAB's website had no updates up to 11:00 pm.

Lower Essequibo/Wakenaam

Small numbers at opening of polls

Polling booths at Wakenaam opened at 6:00 am, though the morning was rainy and visibility was poor. Several persons had been waiting since before 5:30 to cast their ballots.

At the Sans Souci Primary School there were nine persons waiting to cast their votes, while at Belle Plaine six persons were in the line at about 7:45 am.

At the Wakenaam Cottage Hospital polling station there was no line and Stabroek News saw an observer from the Electoral Assistance Bureau, Salim Alli, who said that he was satisfied with the progress.

On the lower Essequibo Coast at around 11:30 am there were 80 persons waiting to vote at the New Opportunity Corps, Onderneeming and about 40 at Bush Lot - Three Friends.

First time voter disappointed with process

Eighteen-year-old Candace Phillips of Queenstown was very disappointed in the electoral process yesterday as she cast her vote for the very first time.

"It was very tedious in the sense that we have been waiting since 6.30 this morning in a line and expected the process to be much faster and more efficient but it wasn't," Phillips told Stabroek News.

Phillips, who voted at the St Gabriel's Primary School in Queenstown said many persons including herself and her mother showed up early at the polling station with the hope to be out of there early to get to work.

However, it was after 8.00 am when Phillips got out of the line and her mother was not out as yet.

"The Elections Commission should have more qualified and more efficient persons to oversee the process," was Phillips' advice.

"I do not think I would vote again as the process has turned me off," Phillips said.

According to Phillips, no one was around to guide voters as to which line they should be a part of and to crown it off, the process was too slow. It took over five minutes for one person to be dealt with in the booth initially but the process eventually picked up.

Late arrival of staff, dried ink delayed polling in some places

A series of administrative problems delayed the opening of some polling centres throughout the country yesterday.

Region Three was one possible exception. The distribution of ballot boxes and other material was also delayed by an hour and a half when the police only showed up at 4.30 am. But in general the polling stations opened on time with all staff and equipment in place, save for a misplaced stamp pad.

In Region Ten, problems included the late arrival of officials, dried-up ink and general confusion, which resulted in some centres opening late.

On the East Bank Demerara, voters turned up at the Pearl Nursery School to find the doors of the school closed.

Residents in the community told Stabroek News that they arrived at the polling station some time before the scheduled 6:00 am start but were shocked to find that the doors of the school were closed.

Attorney-at-law, Lloyd Joseph, who is a member of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) described the situation as a "breakdown in logistics."

He said that after the doors of the school were opened the polling officers found that they did not have enough material to commence the voting process.

He disclosed that there was no ink for persons to stain their fingers with after voting nor was there ink in the stamp pads. These items were provided to the polling station some time after and the voting process began at 10:00 am.

Residents complained about the long time they had to wait, especially the older folks.

The ink problem was not only found at Pearl but at other polling stations. Voters told this newspaper that polling officers were seen asking each other for ink, stalling the voting process in their action.

The voters at the Sans Souci Nursery School at Wakenaam, complained of a long wait.

The power went off at 7:55 am and there were complaints from some voters that lighting in the Sans Souci Nursery school was poor. After representation was made to the Guyana Power and Light Inc, power was restored shortly after 10:45 am.

At South Ruimveldt Park Primary School, this newspaper was told that the polling stations there opened late.

At one stage, the polling staff had more than one task assigned to them because the full staff did not turn up. Persons went away in frustration at not being able to vote.

One polling station ran out of ballot paper and persons had to be sent to another polling station to vote.

PNC REFORM presidential candidate Desmond Hoyte arrived at the school at 1015 hrs with Andy Goveia, another candidate.

Disgruntled electors aired their complaints to the PNC/R leader who advised them accordingly. At some polling stations the polling staff did not seem to know the procedures concerning the various forms of identification that were valid in order for a person to vote. Persons whose names appeared on the list were sent away as a result.

At Liana Nursery School in North/East La Penitence, indelible ink ran out during the morning and held up polling for about half an hour.

Rain affects beginning of voting on upper Essequibo

Voting on the upper Essequibo Coast started off slowly. Turnout was poor at the commencement of polling, but picked up later.

A few showers affected the turnout in some areas. But by 6:38 am Anna Regina Primary School polling station had 120 voters lined up. At 6:50 there were 70 people at Anna Regina New Nursery School; at 7:28, there were 90 people at Lima New Nursery School. Other polling places visited between 6:00 am and 10:10 am had between one and 55 voters.

Region Two has 106 polling places stretching across the Essequibo Coast, Upper and Lower Pomeroon and the ten Amerindian communities.

President does not see glitches materially affecting poll result

By Gitanjali Singh

President Bharrat Jagdeo does not expect the problems encountered during polling yesterday to materially affect the outcome of the elections, the unofficial results of which should be known by 12.00 noon today.

Jagdeo said from the reports he has received, there were hitches in several areas including PPP/Civic strongholds but these were of a minor nature.

"On the whole polling went well except for those who were not allowed to vote because their names were not on the list," Jagdeo told Stabroek News after 11.00 pm last night.

Jagdeo, the presidential candidate of the PPP/Civic, dismissed assertions by the main opposition People's National Congress REFORM (PNC/R) that it was only PNC/R strongholds which were affected by the hitches. Jagdeo said PPP/Civic supporters were also disenfranchised because their names were not on the list, even though they had been issued with a national identification card.

This situation, he said, existed across the country and his party has accumulated evidence on this.

Jagdeo said the PNC/R knew prior to yesterday's elections that those persons not on the list would not be allowed to vote by virtue of a consensus vote by the Elections Commission. The Commission comprises three representatives from the PNC/R and three from the PPP/Civic along with the Chairman, Joe Singh. Jagdeo cautioned against this issue being blown out of proportion.

He indicated that he is expecting a small margin of error in the polls. Based on observations in his hometown, Unity/Lancaster - where 23 persons out of a roll of 1,600 were not allowed to vote (1.5%) - he expects by extrapolation that the margin of error will be in the vicinity of 2%.

"This would not change the outcome of the polls. However, the margin will need to be verified," Jagdeo said.

However, what concerns Jagdeo is the extension of polls close to 9.00 pm last night in South Georgetown and traditional PNC/R strongholds even after instructions were issued for polls to close at 6.35 pm.

Jagdeo said his party has received reports of irregularities including multiple voting along with reports that persons were being intimidated in the areas. One of his party's scrutineers was attacked and intimidated in the very area.

Jagdeo said he spoke with Singh on the issue last night and expressed the hope that what transpired between 6.30 pm and 9.00 pm in crucial sections of the city would be investigated. He also wants to know why the instructions to close the polls were not followed.

However, asked to rate the elections overall, Jagdeo said that given the reports he has received on the hiccups, he could say that the elections were fairly successful.

The PPP/Civic hopes to know who the unofficial winner of the elections is by 6.00 am today based on reports from its party scrutineers.

Asked about the security situation, Jagdeo said he was assured by Commissioner of Police, Laurie Lewis that the force is ready to maintain law and order.

Lewis last night told Stabroek News that the elections yesterday were a bit bumpy but were managed by the Force.

Many polling stations remained open past extended deadline

At least 12 polling places in the southern section of Georgetown remained opened long after the 1835 hrs deadline as persons made a last ditch effort to vote.

Different reasons were given for the unauthorised extended opening of the polling stations at St Pius Primary School, East Ruimveldt Secondary School and South Ruimveldt Park Primary School.

At around 1950 hrs and 2000 hrs respectively at St Pius and East Ruimveldt, persons were clamouring to vote having had their categories of errors cleared up. These stations were all to have been told by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that 6.35 pm was the closing time and only if there were still persons in the line waiting to vote should it remain open. Many of the stations stayed open in contravention of this ruling.

A polling day employee at East Ruimveldt told this newspaper that a senior GECOM official had turned up at his station after it was closed and ordered that it be reopened to allow persons to vote.

At this stage, persons whose names were not on the list but had national identification cards were allowed to vote if they handed over their cards. However, most of these persons disagreed with this and went away.

The polling day staff at South Ruimveldt Primary had already finished attending to electors when Stabroek News visited at 2010 hrs but it remained open, awaiting advice from GECOM.

Similarly, on the East Coast a number of polling stations remained open up to 1930 hrs. Officials at Enmore and Haslington Primary schools, for example, appeared not to have been aware that the deadline had been extended up to 1835 hrs.

Not surprisingly, many of the polling stations were still counting ballots well after midnight. At Victoria Primary School results became available only after 2300 hrs.

Some 80 and 50 persons were reported to have been disenfranchised at Haslington and Victoria Primary schools because of errors on their ID cards and transfers to other polling areas.

At Victoria Primary School Stabroek News was surprised to learn that no lighting facility had been provided to enable the officials to function properly. Residents in the neighbourhood had to assist in connecting a light to the polling station from a neighbouring residence.

It was the same on the East Bank Demerara as polling stations remained opened way past the deadlines.

Some officials told this newspaper that they had already closed when they received a directive from a GECOM official in the area who told them to remain open until further notice. Most who had shut their doors, reopened them even though no one was visiting the stations to cast their ballots.

At 1954 hrs a long line of voters was seen at the Pearl polling station, which was at the Primary School in that area, still waiting to cast their ballots. But this understandable as that polling station had opened its doors some four hours after the scheduled 0600 hrs opening.

At the Supply Primary School the station was still open after 8 pm, likewise at the Land of Canaan Primary School and the Oleander Primary School. At 8.45 pm the Friendship Secondary School, which housed three polling divisions, was still open along with the Craig Primary School which housed five polling divisions.

The polling stations at Grove, Diamond, Covent Garden, Herstelling, Providence, Agricola and Houston were reportedly closed at 8 pm and were still counting ballots into the wee hours of this morning.

But as one of the Organisation of American States (OAS) observers said, the polling officers were doing their counting in a very "systematic" manner, which was being observed by all including supporters of parties who were closely monitoring polling stations. (Back to Top)

PNC REFORM to issue statement on polls

Optimistic about results

The PNC REFORM is to issue a statement today on the conduct of yesterday's voting in the general elections.

It was optimistic yesterday about the results of the poll. PNC REFORM Chairman and Campaign Manager, Robert Corbin, told Stabroek News this morning that the party was still assessing the reports it had been receiving throughout yesterday from its activists across the country.

He said that the PNC REFORM had tried as best it could to get some of its supporters to the districts in which the Elections Commission had erroneously placed them. Corbin said that many of them had endured considerable hardship to ensure that they exercised their franchise.

About a BBC report last night which said that the PNC REFORM had said there was rigging, Corbin stated that the party had made no claim of fraud and had made no statement on the elections all day.

Would-be voters experienced a variety of problems

Unclear how many were eligible

By Stabroek News staffers

Would-be voters encountered a variety of problems at polling stations yesterday though the number of eligible ones who experienced these could not be quantified.

Former Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, a member of the Carter Center observation team told this newspaper at 12:45 yesterday that problems at some polling stations were causing some concern. One of the problems identified by Sandiford was that electors were not getting information.

In answer to a query, Sandiford said that those affected were in the minority.


Electors in the southern section of Georgetown said their problems were aggravated by the attitude of some of the polling day staff.

Problems encountered included voters being in possession of an identification card and their name not being on the list; names being transferred arbitrarily to far flung areas; people being in possession of their photographic stubs and not finding their names on the lists; persons voting for other persons; persons in possession of ID cards and their names on the list but their Master Registration Card (MRC) being unavailable; multiple registration of persons; and a political party soliciting votes at the place of poll.

Patricia Atkinson said she went to her allotted polling place at Mac's Secretarial School on Duncan Street only to find out that someone had already voted for her. The woeful woman was at a loss at what to do.

Atkinson said when she told the polling staff in no uncertain terms that she had not voted and showed there was no indelible ink on her finger, she was told that her name had already been ticked off on the list.

PNC/REFORM candidate Eric Phillips told Stabroek News there were two cases at Grove, East Bank Demerara, where persons had registered twice and were in possession of two ID cards each.

Lorna Thomas went to the place she had registered but was told that her name was not on the list. After checks were made it was found that her name had been transferred to Region Nine.

Neil Brown had a similar experience. He registered in Agricola and obtained his ID card but was transferred to Edinburgh, East Bank Berbice.

While some polling day staff were courteous to would-be electors, others were argumentative, abusive and unhelpful. At one polling station, staff sat around chatting while a number of electors frustrated at not finding their names on the list, argued among themselves. Electors were complaining that no one was answering their queries and some were asked to leave polling stations in a very rude and abrupt manner.

One man who claimed he was unable to read or write was still ordered by a polling station employee to check the list.

At some of these polling stations, older folks were not given any assistance in finding their names or on the process to cast their ballot.

Many persons complained of being sent from one polling station to the next. And a group of disgruntled electors took their complaints to Congress Place, Sophia. There, PNC REFORM members attempted to document complaints.

According to PNC REFORM national candidate Stanley Ming, this was important for the party would need evidence to justify possible protest action and for the courts should the need arise.

Ming told Stabroek News that his party predicted that this sort of confusion would occur where people would have gone through the process and still not be able to vote. He said the PNC/R received no sensible explanation from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to its queries about how a person's name could not be on the list when that person had an identification card. The Commission has said that cards were produced on the basis of the Revised Voters List but that some of these names were subsequently taken off from the Official List of Electors hence the phenomenon of persons with cards who were not on the list.

While some persons had genuine cases of not being able to vote, others were just not au fait with the process. One Sophia resident complained that she went to vote and was told her name was not on the list. Asked by Stabroek News whether she had a photographic stub, she said yes. However, when she produced the stub, information on it revealed that she had her photograph taken in 1996 to obtain an ID card. She had not registered to vote for this election. When this newspaper explained this to her, she said that she was told she could have voted using the old stub.


In northern Georgetown also, voters complained about their names not being found on the official list of electors or even on the addendum. Some who were not listed as registered voters possessed stubs without counterfoil numbers. This would indicate, Commission sources say, that these were not genuine.

But there were no outbursts and calm prevailed during the mid-morning to around mid-afternoon--the period during which Stabroek News visited over 40 polling places in the city.

"Look, my stub is here," a voter lamented, almost on the verge of tears. "I was on the preliminary voters' list and now my name is not on the official list [of electors]." Indeed the piece of softened white paper with counterfoil number 413132 had her name and address clearly stated on the back: Laletha King, 63 Fifth Avenue, Alberttown.

She was still waiting, sitting on a bench along with two of her elderly friends who voted already, at the polling place later in the afternoon, not knowing whether she was going to be able to vote.

An official from the Electoral Assistance Bureau tried to assist her in vain and summoned a polling clerk to help. This also proved futile as the polling clerk said he only had one name on the addendum. He indicated to King that she should go home until she was contacted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

At the very polling station a shut-in, Alice Williams, 88, was forced to wait too. Her registration stub bore no number, just her name and address. The Lot 6 First Street Alberttown resident sat quietly in her vehicle with her chauffeur patiently waiting on instructions on what would have been the next move.

Two other eligible voters suffered a similar fate of not being able to exercise their voting right at FE Pollard Primary and New Campbellville Secondary School respectively.

Pttonne Hercles of 19 Pike Street Kitty displayed her stub number to this newspaper: 1940041. She said she had been told to report to the polling station for her identification card everyday since Thursday, but nothing surfaced up to Saturday. "They told me they can't find my ID card."

Natasha Ettienne of 68 Duncan Street, Campbellville, unfolded her stub, which had no counterfoil number. She said she was told that her name was not on the list.

A polling official, who did not want to be identified because "I am not supposed to talk to the press" made a strong suggestion about adopting correct procedures. He said "the forms must be clear and specific."

Given his first experience in the field yesterday, the official said it was only then that he understood how much was needed.

A PNC scrutineer said some problems occurred at Headstart Nursery, and St Ambrose Primary in Alberttown and Christ Church Secondary on Church Street.

West Demerara

A number of voters in Region Three spent frustrating hours going from polling station to polling station hunting for their names.

One official recalled later that at least 200 people had failed to find their names. Checks at Crane Primary School and Vreed-en-Hoop Nursery School revealed the same situation although not in such large numbers. There were only shrugs of the shoulders and sighs as people trekked off to try somewhere else. Meanwhile, long and silent lines waited patiently on stairways to cast their vote in the unusually hushed classrooms.

What appeared to be happening in some cases was that persons had simply been directed to the wrong stations. Sunil Arpen of New Road had been photographed at the Community High School and picked up his ID card there, but failed to find his name on the list. He later went to the Nursery school close to his home and discovered that was the right place to vote. There were no roving officials to give advice or directions.

Unfortunately a number of people did not get to vote at all. Stabroek News understands that many of these were transfers still not processed by GECOM's Information Systems Department in Georgetown.

The region had submitted some 1,122 names for inclusion with supporting documents last week. Only 202 of these had been effected. It was a disappointing situation, one official said. Further down the coast in the Leonora area, officials "trying with this mixup" also noted that at least 50 to 100 people could not be found despite having stubs. At the various centres for picking up the cards officials told of one or two people not on the list.

In Canal Number One at Two Brothers Primary School, PPP/C scrutineers could not find nine names out of a total of 533.

Guyana Democratic Party candidate Asgar Ally on his way to vote, said even before 8:00 am he had received 20 calls from people claiming to be disenfranchised. This election was "so far total confusion," Ally declared.

But one observer group described the process as smooth. They knew of only one instance of a person not being able to vote. This woman had been given a tendered ballot.

Region Ten

In Region Ten at several polling stations visited by this newspaper, there were complaints of persons being turned away for a variety of reasons, including the apparent lack of knowledge on the part of polling day staff.

Earlier, this newspaper also caught up with former Mayor of Linden and a PNC/R regional candidate, Abdul Kadir who also highlighted some of the difficulties being experienced.

Some cases in particular, according to Kadir, were of a worrying nature especially those where persons arrived at stations equipped with their national identity cards only to learn that their names were not on the list.

This, he continued, had exposed flaws in the registration system which included persons being on the preliminary voters list (PVL), the revised voters list (RVL) and discovering that they had not been included on the final voters list - the Official List of Electors.

East Coast Demerara

On the East Coast, a number of people in Success, Ogle and Turkeyen were reported to have been prevented from exercising their franchise.

In the case of Success, one individual estimated that about 30 people with stubs had been turned away because their names were not on the list. Apparently, it was understood that many of them were persons who had been transferred to another polling district.

At Ogle Community Centre the names of some persons with ID cards could not be found on the list. One female by the name of Ann Persaud reportedly found her name on the Enmore list instead. Two other persons, Basdeo Ramnarine and Ramdias, claimed that they were not allowed to vote because their names were not on the list.

A number of people at the Cyril Potter polling station were also reported to have been turned away because their names did not appear on the list even though they were in possession of ID cards and stubs.

It was observed that some of the stubs shown by persons who were not allowed to vote did not have any number on them. The Commission had warned that it had been alerted to fraudulent activities in relation to stubs and this was why a stub was not a passport to voting - the voter's name had to be on the list.

East Bank Demerara

On the East Bank Demerara, some voters complained about the length of time the actual voting process lasted.

As was expected some persons complained about not being allowed to vote even though they had their stubs and it had to be explained that even though they might have had their stubs, they would not be permitted to vote once their names were not on the list.

Of the 30 polling places visited on the upper Essequibo Coast yesterday morning, almost all had cases where persons' names were not on the final voters list. Some of these persons had new national ID cards and were told to wait around for further word.

In other cases, some persons' ID cards were not found among those sent to sites for distribution yesterday. Distribution of cards commenced after 0900 hrs. This caused some voters to turn away.

Many miners from the Pomeroon, who registered in the interior said they had filled out transfer forms, but their names were not on the lists in the areas requested transfers to. Some voters said that their ID cards were seen in the possession of the officers doing the distribution, but they were not given to them since their names did not appear on the final voters' list.

Belladrum polling station stormed

Minor snags in East Berbice voting

By Daniel Da Costa and Jeune Bailey Van-Keric

When polling opened on the West Coast Berbice, there was a significant turnout. Most polling stations opened at the specified time.

By 11:00 am, voting at the 40 stations visited had slowed to a trickle. The numbers increased after 3:00 pm, with most of them being workers. Polling was basically peaceful with few hiccups.

Some persons were unable to vote even though they had ID cards, because their names were omitted from the final voter's list. Some people had stubs without numbers, whilst some of them were not on the list because they had voted at the disciplined services elections last Monday.

There was some amount of confusion at the Belladrum Primary School, where 17 people claimed that they had been disenfranchised. Polls closed at 7:00 pm in the midst of a power outage that seemed to cover all of Region Five.

Complaints by the 17 persons grew louder and louder and a crowd gathered. Soon, about 300 persons had surrounded the locked Belladrum Primary shouting, "No vote! No peace!"

There were seven unarmed policemen inside the polling station and for a while it seemed things would get hairy. However, at 7:45 pm, a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) official made an appeal for calm. He asked the protestors to go home, assuring them that the problems experienced by their colleagues had been communicated to GECOM and would be addressed. Apparently satisfied, the crowd began to disperse.

There were no other major incidents in Region Five.

Region Six

The East Berbice coastline from New Amsterdam to Crabwood Creek yesterday took on the appearance of a quiet Sunday as the majority of eligible voters ensured that their ballots were cast in the early morning hours. In New Amsterdam, along the East Bank, West and East Canje and along the 47-mile-long Corentyne Coast voters queued up outside polling stations as early as 5.30 am to cast their ballots.

By 9.00 am the lines had begun to peter out with Elections Commission officials reporting a high turnout in the early hours of voting.

Returning Officer for Region Six, Chintamani Ramcobeer, said voting for most of the day had proceeded without any major hitches and that the turnout was approximately 55 per cent at around 11.00 am. At Crabwood Creek on the Corentyne, party scrutineers told Stabroek News that at around midday approximately 75 per cent of the eligible voters had already cast their ballots. The remaining 25 per cent was expected to do so later in the afternoon and this figure included mostly women.

At Corriverton the market was closed and three polling stations nearby--the Town Hall, the Civic Centre and the Primary School--were almost desolate with party scrutineers reporting that a large number of voters had voted very early in the morning. This was the pattern at most villages on the Corentyne including Manchester, Kildonan, Eversham, Nurney, Port Mourant, Rose Hall, Number 51, Whim, Letter Kenny, Alness, East and West Canje, Albion, Hampshire, New Amsterdam, Number 64 Village and on the East Bank. The entire region had a total of some 72,649 eligible voters and 284 polling stations.

The entire day's activities proceeded without any incidents of violence, reported intimidation and or harassment on the part of any individual or political party/ activists. According to Ramcobeer at around 5.00 pm some 75 per cent of the electorate had voted. Stabroek News encountered a few voters who disclosed that they had been issued with ID cards but their names were not on the list.

A small number of persons on the Corentyne, East Canje and New Amsterdam also reported that their Master Registration Cards did not have ID numbers and were not allowed to vote. Ramcobeer also disclosed that he had issued an advisory to all presiding officers on Sunday night indicating that as long as voters' names were on the list they should be allowed to vote using one of the five approved forms of identification. In the East Canje area at around 5.30 pm party scrutineers reported that they had recorded a 98 per cent turnout of voters.

In New Amsterdam voting proceeded smoothly with a few snags, but by late afternoon most of them had been ironed out following consultations with the Elections Commission. In Rose Hall about 20 persons were not in possession of their ID cards even though they had registered and at around mid-day no distribution of cards was taking place. They were allowed to vote later using their MRCs.

Thousands of first-timers exercised their franchise throughout the region with many expressing some degree of nervousness on entering the polling stations. However a number of voters indicated that the majority of polling officials were efficient and they were able to cast their ballots within minutes of entering the polling stations. Checks made at a number of polling stations revealed that the exercise began on time at 6.00 am.

PNC REFORM failed in eleventh-hour appeal

to elections body on voters

Withdrawal from polls was on table but not discussed

The Elections Commission on Sunday night turned down an eleventh-hour appeal from the PNC REFORM for administrative arrangements to be put in place that would allow voting by people who had completed the registration process and were omitted from the Official List of Electors (OLE).

Following the decision, PNC REFORM Chairman, Robert Corbin, appealed to his party's supporters to be calm and to contact Congress Place if they could not find their names on the OLE though they held registration stubs, and, in some cases, had been issued with the new national identity cards.

According to Joe Hamilton, the party's liaison with the commission, while the option of withdrawing from the elections had been put on the table, the discussions never got there as some reports suggested.

Corbin also asked those people whose names were on the list but the districts or divisions in which they appeared were different to the one in which they registered, to contact Congress Place.

Corbin's appeal was broadcast on NBTV Channel 9 just after midnight and repeated several times. The broadcast followed a meeting of the party's campaign committee which examined ways of addressing the difficulties it anticipated would arise, given the problems it saw with the list.

Corbin claimed that some of the problems occurred because the commission failed to live up to the assurance it had given that no person who had completed the registration process would be knowingly disenfranchised. He said that despite providing the commission with information about these persons their names were not included on the addendum published on Friday. The commission had maintained that it had processed the cases referred to it by the PNC REFORM and the PPP/Civic, and these were placed on the addendum. It said, however, that it was unfortunate that some people would not be on. Commission Chairman Joe Singh said in a statement on Sunday night that "we have to do better next time, meaning that the procedures and all of the processes need to be reviewed in order to ensure that all eligible electors are reflected on the roll, but given what we have done we feel that we have a list which is acceptable and should be deemed acceptable".

Many Barticians voted but more than

100 encountered problems

Polling stations at Bartica in Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) opened on time yesterday and by 7:00 am half the registered voters had exercised their franchise.

The number of registered voters at Bartica totalled 5,070. At 4:00 pm yesterday at Two Miles Potaro Primary polling station `A', 227 of a total of 312 electors had voted. At the same venue, at polling station `B', 217 of a total of 320 had voted.

In Bartica Central most people had voted by the original 6:00 pm closing time. However, a number of persons in the region, including the names of 48 persons at Division 722244 B alone, found that they had been omitted from the final voter's list, and were unable to exercise their franchise yesterday.

In addition, 60 persons were listed incorrectly or were incorrectly placed and also found themselves unable to cast their ballots. This was a source of concern for Returning Officer, Harry Persaud.

In addition, he noted the concern of miners who sought transfers from other stations in the region to Bartica, but whose transfers were not effected. With permission from GECOM and proper identification some of them were able to cast their votes during the extended time of voting.

According to Persaud, about 20 persons were trying to get to the GECOM office at Bartica for it to approve their voting in the area as their names were on the final voter's list in Region Seven, but not at Bartica.

At the close of polls Stabroek News could not ascertain whether they had voted or not. PNC REFORM and PPP/Civic party activists were trying to assist those who encountered problems.

Those were several cases where persons who had lived all their lives and registered at Bartica had their names placed on polling stations countrywide. Margaret Ann King of Bartica was listed at Earl's Court, LBI; Terrence Small who collected his ID card at Bartica, had his name listed in Region Two; Dawn Blackman was placed at Coomacka, in Region Ten, Beverley Simon at Cane Ville Squatting Area in Region Four; Shawn Collymore, at 569 West Ruimveldt; Patrick Odwin registered at Bartica was placed at Mahdia; Leon Skeete was placed at Cotton Field, Essequibo Coast.

Some civic-minded citizens assisted some of those displaced by paying their passage to Georgetown and elsewhere so that they could exercise their franchise.

At the scheduled close of poll, stations at Bartica had sealed their ballot boxes when news was received at the GECOM returning officer's office that the polling time had been extended. The returning officer told Stabroek News that he had received a message that polling would continue at 6:05 pm and relayed it to the polling stations at Bartica. It was eventually announced by the Elections Commission that polls were to close as of 6.35 pm.

Some persons on hearing of the extension in time turned up to vote at some of the polling stations and the ballot boxes had to be reopened to facilitate further voting. Persaud expressed concern at the breaking of the seal stating that they might have been some extra seals at the Bartica GECOM Office, but not enough.

Among those observing the elections at Bartica, were representatives of the European Union (EU), the Carter Center, the Organisation of American States, The Guyana Long-term Observer Group and the Electoral Assistance Bureau.

Satisfactory early voter turnout in Linden

By Oscar P. Clarke

Amid humid conditions, residents in the mining town of Linden yesterday streamed into polling stations to cast their ballots. By 2:00 pm yesterday about 60% of the 22,765 registered voters were said to have cast their ballots at the 112 polling stations scattered throughout the region.

There were early teething problems (see other story in this issue), but apart from these, the atmosphere was peaceful and orderly.

Many persons went out early to vote and as the sun rose, the numbers dwindled with persons going to the polling places in singles, pairs and small groups.

Many businesses closed early in the afternoon to facilitate employees needing to cast their ballots.

Among the notable persons casting their ballots in the region, was the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Front, Joseph Bacchus, who exercised his franchise at 10:07 am at Christianburg Nursery school in Wismar a short distance from his home.

Shortly after voting Bacchus spoke with Stabroek News. He expressed confidence in the conduct of the elections up to that point. He noted that things seemed to be "running smoothly" and hoped that the rest of the day's proceedings continued in that vein.

Questioned on his plans for the rest of the day, Bacchus said that he intended to visit as many polling places as possible, beginning in the Wismar area and proceeding to Mckenzie in the afternoon.

Stabroek News also caught up with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at the Silver City Secondary School shortly before 11:30 am, on one of his stops at polling stations in the regions where he is a candidate on the regional list.

Hinds and his entourage observed proceedings at the multiple stations housed in the school and spoke briefly with presiding officers and PPP/C scrutineers on the day's proceedings.

In a brief comment on his observations up to that point in time the Prime Minister stated that some "60 per cent of persons had voted by 11:30 am" which was a satisfactory turnout.

He also expressed satisfaction with the proceedings, which he described as "peaceful, quiet and going well"; although acknowledging some instances where problems existed.

He further stated that he had visited several stations in the Wismar area and noted that polling seemed to be proceeding smoothly.