Last update: 10-Dec-2013 10:54 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Tension at San Juan recount
Two days after an incident-free local government elections, supporters of two major political parties found themselves in an intense standoff outside of a polling station where votes were being recounted for the San Juan East district. The seat was initially declared for the People’s National Movement (PNM) on Monday, whose candidate Raphael John won by nine votes.
The United National Congress (UNC) candidate for the area, Premabhakti Samaroo-Dookan, called for a recount which began on Tuesday but was aborted after what Samaroo-Dookan claimed was interference with the process. The process began again at 10 am yesterday but by evening groups of supporters gathered outside of the polling station on Railway Road, Aranguez. The results were likely to be announced last night.
UNC supporters were vocal with their discontent and told the media the voting process had been compromised by PNM officials, including Nafeesa Mohammed, Diego Martin North MP Colm Imbert and an unnamed PNM lawyer being allowed into the building. A group of red T-shirt-clad, flag-waving PNM supporters stood not far away, among them, John’s mother, reading a bible.
In the building, John, Samaroo-Dookan, their election agents, along with Imbert and other officials, were locked in with a police officer warning supporters to stay off the premises. In a short interview Samaroo-Dookan told the media she felt the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) showed a bias toward the PNM. “We were being threatened by the PNM candidate and his agent and we saw officials of the EBC showing a preference toward the PNM,” she said.
She added that she felt she had won in the district and the PNM was trying to frustrate the process. “If the EBC does not declare me as victorious I am not going to let anyone else have this seat because the seat rightfully belongs to me,” she said. While Samaroo-Dookan spoke to the media, Health Minister Fuad Khan appeared on the scene and entered the building. A short while later, Imbert left the building and spoke to PNM supporters asking them to go home. Khan did the same moments later.
Speaking to media, Khan said he had come to an agreement with Imbert that everyone would leave with the exception of the presiding officer from the EBC, the candidates and their election agents. Imbert told the media his purpose at the polling station was to bring calm to a heated situation. “I was asked to come and bring peace to the whole thing. It was a misunderstanding of the process by both candidates. I don’t think people were sure of all the rules,” he said.
Imbert said there was a misunderstanding as candidates thought the recount would be the final count. He said the issue was a lack of experience on the part of both candidates. Imbert and Khan left the polling station along with other officials. Supporters, however, despite moving away from the premises remained around corners, a short distance away.
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