…calls for stern action against GECOM staff who registered fictitious personsThe Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to make a final decision on what to do about the persons it could not verify during the recent field verification. According to one chief scrutineer who played an integral part in the exercise, these persons cannot be allowed on the voters’ list.PPP Chief Scrutineer Zulfikar MustaphaIn an interview with Guyana Times, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Chief Scrutineer Zulfikar Mustapha had questioned the reasons for enumerators registering persons with addresses that are in reality, empty lots.“Those are serious concerns. Those persons who cannot be found and are at empty lots, those people are not living there. So, in the first place, why did GECOM staff who conducted the registration register empty lots? They have to answer for that. GECOM has to take stock of those things.“You cannot put people on a list that you cannot verify, because that was the whole point of the verification exercise. The point was to verify those persons. I agree that those persons who were found and GECOM was able to verify, those persons can be added to the list. But you can’t put persons you cannot account for, it would defeat the whole purpose,” Mustapha said.He recalled the issues of fraud that had arisen during last year’s Local Government Elections (LGE). At the time, there had been accusations that persons’ signatures were forged as backers for certain candidates. This time the stakes are higher, as the names that make it on the Revised List of Electors (RLE) will be used for elections in March.“They had issues like that in the Whim area, where persons said their signatures were forged. And the matter went to the High Court. So, they should be very stern with people… for forging persons’ information to go on the list.”Section 20 (b) of the National Registration Act states that every officer who “willfully or without reasonable excuse enters in any register established under Section 9 the registration card of any person who is not eligible to be registered or the registration card of any fictitious or non-existent person… shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months.”It had previously been announced that over 6500 persons of the 16,863 ‘new’ registrants were not confirmed during the five-day field verification exercise, which concluded on December 22. Figures released to the media the next day had shown that Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) had the highest number of unconfirmed persons – 3657.According to GECOM, there were 16,863 ‘new’ registrants, but only 10,329 were confirmed.Opposition-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn told this publication last week that field officers who conducted the verification exercise of “new registrants” captured during the scrapped House-to-House (H2H) Registration process found empty lots at the addresses on record for those persons.He also told this newspaper that they were informed by the Party’s scrutineers who worked along with the GECOM staff during the exercise that there were instances where they went to the addresses to verify the names and were met with empty lots.Some 370,000 registrations obtained during the scrapped $3 billion H2H exercise, which ran from July 20 to August and was objected to by the Opposition, were sent overseas to be cross-matched with the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) in order to filter out the duplicates.However, it was recently reported that international digital security company Gemalto indicated that some 37,300 were new registrants who are eligible for voting, that is, they are above the age of 18. But an internal check conducted by GECOM showed that approximately 17,000 of those “new registrants” were already on the voters’ list and some even voted in the past.