By Nelson Manneh
Hon. Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member for Banjul North Constituency, said the most important exercise for citizens in a nation is elections and which hinge on the registration of eligible voters.
“Elections are sacrosanct and very important as they determine who should be the representatives of the people to be entrusted with power and resources to address the issues such as poverty, unemployment, access to health care, education, among others,” said Hon, Sillah.
The Banjul North lawmaker, who was met by this reporter at the Voter’s Registration Centre at Campama School in his constituency, said he had been going round to some of the registration centres in Banjul to see how the registration process is progressing. He said two registration centres are operating in his Constituency and are both busy with claimants trying to register and most especially the one at Campama School.
“I’ve observed that in the past registration exercises at this place the Centre has always been inside the school premises unlike this time when it is outside on the sidewalk of the main Box Bar Road,” he noted.
The Banjul North NAM added that when he enquired from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as to why the Centre is not situated inside the school, he was told that it is because of the deadly COVID-19 as they do not want the crowd to mix with the pupils. He said the IEC further told him that it is same arrangement all throughout the country.
Hon. Sillah noted that one of the challenges being faced by the people is standing under the hot sun without a canopy or shade to cover them but added that it is worth it considering the importance of the voter’s card to the person’s life.
“The person’s sovereignty is incomplete without having a voice or power to determine those who are entrusted to run the affairs of this country and that this can only happen when you are registered as a voter,” said Hon. Sillah.
The other challenge, he added, is that people are clustered together the centres without regard to the COVID-19 guidelines of physical distancing and mask wearing.
The Banjul North NAM said he has noticed that some party agents were claiming that some people appearing at the centres should not be registered because they are not eligible but advised that they should desist from such actions. “What the election law allows is for political parties to appoint agents who should be monitoring the process by taking the details of every claimant as announced by the Registering officer for the purpose of scrutiny for possible objections at the revising court immediately following the registration,” said the Banjul North lawmaker
“The IEC issued a statement saying that the party agents should only take the opening number or details of the first registered person and the last registered person in the day but I believe this is going to defeat the purpose of the scrutiny for eligibility which is the essence of this whole exercise. Party agents should sit at close proximity so that they can hear and note down the details of the claimants such as name, address i.e. street name and compound number for Banjul, serial number of supporting document, number of cards issued, as they are announced by the registering officials,” added Hon. Sillah.
He also said that taking the first and last serial numbers helps to prevent registering a voter outside the registration hours.
Hon. Sillah also weighs in on the legitimately of the mayor of Banjul administering attestation certificates for claimants.
“The election law is very clear as to what documents claimants should present and these are birth certificate, passport, ID card or attestation by an alkali of district chief and is completely silent in the case of which does not have an alkali or chief,” he argued.
Hon. Sillah added that as a lawmaker he knows that the IEC can make its own rules where the law is silent but that this would be a regulation that is published in the gazette for it to have legislative effect.
“It is therefore not in line with the law for the mayor of Banjul to be administering attestations and that the IEC should immediately stop this arrangement and resort to another option for the peculiar situation of Banjul,” said the Banjul North NAM.
“Besides this legal issue, this role should only be performed by a non-political office holder and which disqualifies a President, NAM, Mayor, Chairperson and Councillor,” he added.
Sillah concluded by urging eligible Banjulians who are 18 years and above, are currently resident in Banjul or hail from Banjul to go and register in order to have a voice in their country.
“Registration of voters is a non- partisan affair and that no one should allow anybody to act as if he or she had helped you to get a voter’s card. It is your birth right that you do not need favours from anybody to get,” concluded the Banjul North NAM.