Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Compromise or court to resolve Chaguanas impasse
A week after the local government elections, the composition of at least two regional corporations remains unresolved. In one case, the question of which party’s candidate will assume leadership of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation has triggered a legal debate with political parties and even the Ministry of Local Government each seeking advice on a possible resolution. In the Princes Town Regional Corporation another legal challenge is being contemplated by the People’s National Movement to block the Elections and Boundaries Commission from doing a second recount in the Moruga electoral district. Independent Liberal Party interim leader Jack Warner, on a walkabout in the St Joseph constituency yesterday, offered some advice to resolve the Chaguanas dispute, where the corporation has been evenly divided between the PNM, the United National Congress and his party.
He suggested that the UNC and the ILP put their differences aside and work together to resolve the situation. In relation to Chaguanas, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has repeatedly said her party will not negotiate with criminals, a reference to the ILP. Another suggestion by political pundits to resolve the deadlock in Chaguanas was to use draw lots, which has precedent, but politicians from the three major parties do not seem to know its origin. “Where did that come from? Who told you about the drawing of lots? Did the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) issue a release that lots have to be drawn for the Chaguanas Borough Corporation?” PNM PRO Senator Faris Al-Rawi asked yesterday in response to questions from the T&T Guardian.
Al-Rawi was asked if lots would have to be drawn to break the deadlock that arose in the Chaguanas Borough Corporation because the PNM got three seats, the UNC three and the Independent Liberal Party two. Dismissing the question, he said the PNM was committed to the electoral process and the law and noted that the electoral process for Chaguanas was not yet completed.
Outling the process, he said: “Each of the parties have yet to submit a list of their nominees for aldermen to the EBC and then the aldermen and councillors will convene and elect a mayor, as is the process under the law. One may very well find that the person nominated for mayor is supported by more than the party. “There is no anxiety on the part of the PNM to do anything else than abide by the electoral process and the law.
Al-Rawi also dismissed questions on whether proportional representation affected the drawing of lots for mayor. He said PR was a “fallacy” of the Government, which did not engage in consultation before it foisted the new system of voting on the electorate. ILP interim chairman Robin Montano dismissed the idea of drawing lots to break the deadlock and seemed to favour the idea of aldermen and councillors choosing the person who deserved to be mayor. And the mayor, if the process was done in a democratic manner, would have to come from the ILP, Montano said. He, too, was unable to say offhand where the practice of drawing lots came from. “In the past that’s how it was dealt with so there’s precedent for it,” he said. In the 1999 local government elections, there was a deadlock at the Siparia Regional Corporation, with the UNC and PNM having four seats each. After lots were drawn, the UNC got control of the corporation.
There was a similar deadlock in the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation in 2003. A temporary chairman was selected by a member of the public, who pulled his name from a hat. Montano, dismissing this process, said if true democracy and PR were followed, the ILP should get the choice of mayor. “That is, if they really believe the voice of the people is the voice of God, for the ILP got the most votes.” Montano added that all options were on the table for the ILP in breaking the deadlock. “We will do whatever is necessary to protect the interests of the people. We are not turning down any option.” On an alliance with the PNM or UNC, he said: “Sure, if they want to come and support one of the ILP people for mayor but if you want me to come and make you mayor, dream on.” Chaguanas East MP Stephen Cadiz said he did not know exactly where the drawing of lots system came from but said it was done in the past. “So it’s not new to politics but the process has to be agreed on by all parties. In the case of a deadlock, it will be the easiest thing to do.” Cadiz said going back to the polls was an option that might produce the same deadlock. As to the UNC’s position on the drawing of lots, he said, the matter would be receiving the attention of the party and any statement to be made ought to come from the party and not individual members.
Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said there was no law in the existing local government legislation about the drawing of lots. “I don’t know where it came from,” he said, “but it has been a convention.” Ragoonath said if the electoral process for the selection of mayor was followed, there would come a point when the three parties would have to do some horse-trading. Turning to the situation in the Princes Town Corporation, Opposition MP Colm Imbert said there was nothing in the Representation of the People Act to support a second recount so the PNM has told the EBC its intended to challenge that action. In a telephone interview yesterday, Imbert said there had been some very strange occurrences in last week’s local government elections. “It is very strange that after the initial count on election night, where all of the ballots were counted at the various polling stations by the respective presiding officers, there was a view that the PNM candidate, Kenwyn Williams, had emerged victorious. Even the UNC candidate Phillip Gonzales thought so too. “However, when they looked at it again, there was a miscalculation and it turned out that the UNC candidate had in fact won the initial count by approximately 20 votes.” Imbert said there was some mixup between ballots at a particular polling station, in terms of the way the EBC was accounting for who the votes were cast for. “The initial mistake was made when it was said the PNM candidate had won the seat, when in fact the UNC candidate had won. “The PNM candidate then asked for a recount in accordance with the Representation of the People Act. When they did the recount, the returning officer (Azim Bassarath) discovered a number of ballots which he considered to be spoilt, because they were smudged with electoral ink, among other things.”
After rejecting all of the spoilt ballots the result was reversed in favour of the PNM candidate by some 40 votes ahead of the UNC candidate. “When the UNC candidate discovered the recount had put the PNM candidate ahead, confusion erupted and the EBC ordered a second recount,“ Imbert said. “I have looked at the law and I can’t find any provisions in the law for a second recount.
“My understanding of the law, is once you do a recount, you cannot do a second recount. The EBC has no authority to do a second recount.” Imbert said in the interim, Williams has delivered a letter to the EBC headquarters requesting a check of the results. He explained that after the recount is done and the returning officer makes a declaration of the results of the poll, the unsuccessful candidate, under Election Rule 106, can request the Chief Elections Officer to check the results.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.