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Polling day drama

Ricky Jordan

Polling day drama

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Pandemonium broke out at a Georgetown polling station yesterday and at the centre of it was the ruling party’s candidate and the man seeking to be the next president of Guyana, Donald Ramotar.
The trouble started around 7:31 a.m. when the People’s Progressive Party-Civic’s (PPP-C) presidential candidate Ramotar arrived, dressed in all-black and accompanied by security officials, and made his way on foot through the narrow and muddy road into the Plaisance Community High School.
Accompanied by his daughter Lisaveta and Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, the 61-year-old candidate received no cheers but polite utterances of “good morning” by voters waiting outside as media photographers rushed into the polling room behind him. Suddenly, there was an uproar on the inside as a female Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) official repeatedly ordered the photographers to “go outside”.
As some reluctantly left, she slammed the door shut, causing people waiting in the queue for an hour or more to shout, “these doors should not be shut” and “They (the doors) should be open from six till six”.
By then, media and GECOM officials had begun to shout at each other through the windows about being allowed in the polling room, since GECOM had officially stated previously that one person per media house should be allowed entry.
Their voices were soon joined by those of the waiting voters, some angrily hitting the door and repeating “we wan’ see wha’ goin’ on! No way! Open dis door!”
As the door was opened, media personnel re-entered and were herded behind the GECOM officers’ desk, while a puzzled-looking Ramotar, now joined by his wife Deolatchmee, tried to remain calm going through the voting process.
By the time he finally exited, Ramotar, sweating profusely and holding up his index finger to show the ink from his vote, was greeted by the angry crowd shouting, “Granger! Granger! Granger!” (the Opposition A Partnership for National Unity leader David Granger).
Afterwards, Ramotar told the DAILY NATION: “I think there was a big over-reaction on the part of the GECOM staff. They were making a hell of a lot of noise. I don’t know why.”
Regarding the heckling, he said: “I think that’s totally unfortunate because it’s violating all the laws and customs of GECOM.
“I don’t think people are supposed to behave in this way but this is typical reflection of the PNC (People’s National Congress)-APNU behaviour,” he said, adding that he would be moving around the country for the remainder of the day observing the polling, “particularly in light of what took place here”.
He said, however, that he was confident of victory and that the PPP-C should win in a big way by the time the full results are given this morning.
“So I think this election will be bigger because we have been able to demonstrate that we don’t discriminate in our development policies in any way, that the resources of the country have been distributed to every single region. This behaviour that you’re seeing sometimes may be something that’s trying to stem the tide,” stated Ramotar.
At Ramakrishna Primary School on Middleton Street, Alliance For Change (AFC) presidential candidate Khemraj Ramjattan had no such issues as he quietly cast his vote. He said there were a few concerns in Region 1 (Barima- Waini) where scrutineers working in certain areas had to travel to villages many miles away to vote.
“It breaches a man’s fundamental right,” said Ramjattan.
Meanwhile, GECOM chairman Dr Steve Surujbally said in a statement that there were indeed some episodes, similar to that involving Ramotar, that were “excursions into nonsense and … instances where our own staff have lapsed”.
He disclosed: “Unfortunately, we will fire them immediately and they will be removed from their positions for expressed dotishness.”