In less than eight weeks, Guyanese will be heading to the polls and in preparation for the upcoming March 2 General and Regional Elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is all set to host Nomination Day on Friday.GECOM PRO Yolanda Ward at the lunchtime lecture organised by the Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Tuesday at Moray HouseThis is according to GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward, who delivered a presentation to members of the media on Tuesday, on the practices, procedures and laws relating to the conduct of Nomination Day.On that day, each party contesting the elections will have to submit their list of candidates for the election of a President, members of the National Assembly and members of the Regional Democratic Councils to the Chief Elections Officer.This will be done at the Umana Yana, High Street, Kingston, Georgetown on Friday from 13:00 to 17:00h.Moreover, the Nomination Day process began last month when political parties had to submit their party symbols to GECOM by December 13, 2019. This, Ward explained, was to allow the Commission to examine the symbols and give approval to avoid issues such as duplication. This way, parties will be informed of ahead of Nomination Day and will be able to make adjustments.However, she explained that parties are allowed also to submit their symbols on Nomination Day as well.GECOM had reported that 19 political parties have submitted symbols thus far and of these, 14 are new parties. While the two main political parties – the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) coalition – have been gearing up March 2 polls, there have been the formation of several new and small parties over the past months. As a matter of fact, so far, there have been 19 parties indicating interest in contending the upcoming elections.According to Ward, the law prescribed that the submissions of the lists of candidates will have to be done strictly on Nomination Day and within the timeframe set – no time earlier or later. She went on to explain how the lists are formed and who should be on each list.The GECOM PRO pointed out that all the lists must be registered electors. For the National Top-Up List, it should comprise of 300-330 nominators, 42 candidates (persons to be elected to sit in National Assembly) who all need a statutory declaration form in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths or Justice of Peace, and include the name of the Presidential Candidate.The Statutory Declaration form is what candidates sign to indicate that they are Guyanese and do not have dual citizenship. According to Ward, the onus is on the Candidates to be honest when they sign the statutory forms since the laws do not provide for false declarations made by candidates.Meanwhile, the Geographical Constituency (Administrative Regions) List must include 150-175 nominators from each constituency and no more than 45 candidates.It must be noted that parties are not mandated to contest both General and Regional Elections. Likewise, they are not mandated to contest in all 10 geographical constituencies but they must contest in at least six of those regions.With regards to the Regional Elections, the Regional Democratic Council List must comprise of 150-175 nominators for each constituency – all residing in the said region, and 12 to 36 candidates also from within the region. They too are required to sign a statutory form.Candidates and nominators can only appear on one party’s lists – both National Top-up and Geographical Constituency Lists – but only on one of that party’s geographical lists.Parties are also required to have one-third female presence on their National Top-Up List and same on the combined Geographical Constituency Lists in accordance with gender balance laws.These requirements, as well as others, will be examined by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield on Nomination Day and those parties whose lists, even one, do not meet all the requirements will be deemed defective.Parties will have 24 hours after Nomination Day to notify the CEO in writing of death and/or withdrawals of candidates and/or nominators. In addition, parties can also withdraw their lists but this will have to be done in writing by both the representative and deputy of the lists and before the lists are approved.On January 12, the CEO will inform the representative and/or deputies of the defective lists of same and they will have until the following day to make and submit the corrections.On January 15, the CEO will inform of the approval and/or non-approval of the lists by the Elections Commission. Parties will also have up until January 16 to make any appeals to the High Court based on the decisions of the Commission.Additionally, representatives and/or their deputies will have until January 17 to notify the CEO of any joiner of lists by two or more parties. Finally, on January 19, the titles and symbols of the approved lists of each party will be published in the gazette along with the names of the candidates.The CEO will make these lists available for public scrutiny.
…Evening News only newscast with closed captioningGNBA Chairman Leslie SobersPrivately-owned Television Guyana (TVG) and Radio Guyana Inc (RGI) were among the broadcast agencies commended by the Guyana National Broadcast Authority (GNBA) for its compliance with broadcast guidelines catering for persons living with disabilities.TVG and RGI were complimented by Chairman of the GNBA’s Board, Leslie Sobers, during the 4th Stakeholder Engagement held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, where 24 broadcast media entities attended.TVG, in catering for persons with disabilities, is the only local broadcast agency which provides closed captioning for its major newscast, Evening News.This is in keeping with the Section 26 of the Persons with Disabilities Act. The Act, however also calls for the prosecution of broadcast entities for failure to demonstrate their social responsibility of catering for the differently abled.Hefty fines as much as $100,000 and a sentence of six months’ imprisonment is among the penalties outlined in the act for failure to comply.“Within 10 years of coming in cooperation with this act, the person in charge of every national television station shall provide a sign language inset or subtitle on one newscast programme daily and special programme covering events of national significance. Subsection 2 says that a person, who fails to comply with subsection 1 commits an offence that is liable on summary convictions to a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for six months,” Sobers in his attempt to foster compliance by the other agencies.Guyana is presently below on the index for countries catering for persons with disabilities.Forewarning broadcast agencies of the consequences attached to their non-compliance with the request of GNBA in catering for the differently abled, Sobers further highlighted the discriminatory nature enclosed in their resistance.Sobers urged broadcasters to be cognisant of their responsibility.“So to not cater for the needs of the hearing impaired and by extension persons with disability is an act of discrimination…There are legal consequences associated with a broadcaster not putting in place systems to allow accessibility to these persons. Now we are not mindful at GNBA because some of this might be expensive, but at least we would urge our broadcasters to make an attempt, it couldn’t be that much impacting on your bottom-line, if you were to have one major newscast with the closed captioning at the bottom,” Sobers noted.However, defiance on the part of local broadcaster could see them being taken before a Special Investigative Committee (SIC). For those found guilty, fine infractions could be implemented.“For red line infractions, a minimum of $50,000, a maximum of $100,000 so if you get a red infraction, you’re liable to pay this fine. For orange infractions from $25,000 to $50,000, for yellow infractions from $10,000 to $25,000. For failing to attend a hearing of the SIC, a penalty of $75,000, for failing to provide recordings when ordered to do so, $50,000 and for failing to pay a fine on the due date, $100 for every $1000 not paid and repeat offenders can be liable for a suspension of their licensed,” the Chairman warned.RGI presently gives airtime to a member of the differently abled community, Ganesh Singh of the Society for the Blind. This is also in keeping with the requirements of the GNBA.
…PPP urges consistent regional and global support…lauds bravery of Bahamians during storm…GBTI donates $3MAs support pours in from across the world for the Bahamas, the Guyana Government has activated a response mechanism to facilitate assistance and support for the Caribbean island, which was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian over the last few days.The destruction by Dorian – the Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on the Bahamas at about 12:40h with 185 mph winds on SundayThe Category 5 hurricane left widespread and extensive destruction in the Bahamas with many homes, businesses and other buildings completely or partially destroyed. This devastation has triggered a worldwide show of solidarity as countries lend support to the island via various means.Local relief efforts are being led by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and according to its Director General, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, he will be meeting with members of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) today with the view of mobilising and dispatching resources to the hurricane-ravaged island.The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is currently monitoring the effects of Hurricane Dorian. The Rapid Needs Assessment Team (RNAT) located in Bahamas has prepared a pre-impact analysis, in collaboration with the national lead agencies, which is currently being reviewed by the Government of Bahamas through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).According to Craig, the island has identified water pumps, reverse osmosis plant, bladder tanks, generators and hygiene kits as immediate needs. But he noted the most appropriate need at this time is financial support.To this end, the CDC says it has established accounts at various commercial banks in Guyana so that persons can make donations for relief efforts. The accounts’ information will be circulated as soon as they are made available. The monies raised would be used to support response teams deploy, establish and manage shelters and to procure relief supplies.DonationIn addition to setting up an account, the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) has also donated $3 million to the relief efforts.“We see the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian and we understand the need for the people to get back to their normal lives and it is inherent within us to help,” said GBTI Executive Director Richard Isava.Persons interested in making contributions can use the ‘GBTI Hurricane Relief Fund – Bahamas’ with account number 011802963011.Another account ‘Disaster Relief Fund’ with account number 651-993-8 was established at Republic Bank Limited for persons to make donations to the relief efforts.Meanwhile, the Commission will also be reaching out to Guyanese living in the Bahamas who were impacted to determine what level of support is needed. Craig told Guyana Times on Wednesday that the Foreign Affairs Ministry here was in the process of obtaining the information of Guyanese on the island.Additionally, the CDC is in talks with the Department of Energy (DoE) and other key partners after CDEMA made a request for an Oil and Gas Specialist in refineries to be identified within Member States so they can be deployed to the island as part of the RNAT.The Commission has since updated Minister of State, Dawn Hastings-Williams, on the situation and she has, in turn, briefed Cabinet on Guyana’s preparedness to respond. The Government has committed to tangibly contribute to relief efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.Regional and global supportMeanwhile, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has also joined in extending sympathy and support to the Government and people of the Bahamas in this time of devastation.“Guyanese are horrified by the unspeakable destruction of life and property on the Abaco and the Grand Bahama Islands. At the same time, we salute the bravery and selflessness of so many Bahamians to rescue people in their communities under dangerous conditions,” the Party stated.Furthermore, the PPP recognised that the Bahamas will require consistent regional and global support for a long time to come as it reconstructs the once tourist-haven.“Guyana must extend its support to Bahamas as quickly as possible, as it has unflinchingly done in the past for fellow brothers and sisters in the Caribbean who suffered terrible natural disasters”.On Sunday, the Category 5 hurricane made landfall on the Bahamas at approximately 12:40h with 185 mph winds. The following day, it downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane but it still exhibited slow forward movement.The total population expected to be affected on Grand Bahama and Abacos Islands— the two of the worst affected islands within the Bahamas— is estimated at 76,278.Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has so far confirmed seven deaths, but noted this might increase. He called the storm a historic tragedy.“This was a crisis of epic proportions,” he told reporters on Tuesday evening.