Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Bribes for votes, say residents
Money, cellphones and food cards were said to have been stealthily passed on to United National Congress (UNC) voters in yesterday’s St Joseph by-election, provided they voted for the party.
Several angry workers at the People’s National Partnership (PNM) mock polling station near St Joseph Government Primary School claimed that all day yesterday voters were collecting up to $500 for their vote from the UNC tent a few metres away.
“$500 a vote! All them fellas on the hill in Caiman. They just start calling them. Everybody going and vote, and when they vote they going back there to get their money. We seeing it! We seeing it!” one mock poll worker yelled yesterday afternoon, two hours before the polls closed.
Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz was at the UNC mock polling station since midday, and laughed when asked about the accusation, then denied it.
“The UNC is by no means part and parcel of any operation like that, about buying votes and what have you. We have never had a history of that. We don’t do that, that is not how we campaign.
“What others do, that is their business,” Cadiz said.
But one voter seated near the UNC camp, who identified himself as Kevin, said he collected $300 for his vote around 7.30 yesterday morning. He said he did not have to show any proof of which party he voted for, simply say he voted for the UNC.
He laughed as he added that no one was really voting for UNC, but the PNM.
“Plenty people get money. Real man get. But they vote PNM,” the 30-year-old construction worker said.
Hesitant to reveal who handed him the money, Kevin whispered, “All my bredren and them get. But hear, all them men who get went and vote PNM, though, I telling you.”
He said he also received a cellphone, which he described as “the Blu selling for $100 in bmobile,” which he had already sold to a friend.
“This is election time. Anything goes,” he laughed again.
Another voter, Jamon Harry, speaking outside the primary school, said he received a food card on Saturday at the UNC constituency office in Aranguez, on the condition he voted for the party in yesterday’s election. He said the food cards were offered to him and his friends.
“They had a walkabout, and we tell them, ‘We under pressure, what you go do for we?’” Harry said. “They didn’t give we no money. All they give we is a temporary (food) card.”
A trip to the TML Primary School on the Eastern Main Road revealed another instance of alleged bribery.
Marcia Chan Pak, councillor for St Joseph, showed reporters a cellphone that she said was given to her by a voter who said he was bribed by the UNC for his vote.
“We’ve had some challenges today,” she said, adding that the voter had also received $200 “to vote for the UNC.”
“The person knows me, and came up to my office and told me what went on,” saying she could not reveal his identity.
The phone did not have a SIM card.
“There has been a lot of intimidation with people being offered money to vote for the UNC,” she said. “The only proof I have really is the phone. The rest are allegations.”
Chan Pak said she could not report the incident tothe police,as the onus was on the person who received it, but said she would keep it as evidence.
“He wouldn’t go. He has to report it.”
UNC candidate for the constituency, Ian Alleyne, was a few steps away, greeting people near UNC’s mock polling station.
When asked about the allegations, he said “That’s the first time I hearing that. You need to speak with the lawyers and them,” Alleyne said as he rushed off, not before saying results looked “promising.”
Alleyne’s lawyer Larry Lalla said he knew nothing about the rumours of the UNC buying votes, and asked “How you know is UNC they get the money from?”
He said it was hearsay to take the word of people who claimed to have been bribed.
“It’s valueless as evidence,” Lalla said.
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