There are at least two often mocked and reviled institutions that come to the fore each time Caribbean societies face the annual challenges of our geography.
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Team Penny: Too many irregularities
Hundreds of people were not on the PNM’s voting list for yesterday’s internal party elections although they had properly completed all the processes for this, Team Penny’s Ronald Boynes said yesterday. That was the main problem noted by Team Penny according to Boynes who added: “We’ve noted massive problems overall.”
Boynes, the team’s legal adviser, said while the number of participants for the elections were alright in eastern areas and PNMites had come out to vote, there were many problems with names not being on the voting list. Team Penny stated the absolute final voters’ list was only issued last Saturday and many members yesterday found their names weren’t on it.
Boynes, who monitored voting in five eastern constituencies said, “A lot of people whose names were on the preliminary list, who were longstanding members and had ensured their membership was in good standing by the required February deadline were not on the final voting list.” “That included a man who has been a member since 1989 and who went to Balisier House well ahead of the deadline to ensure his membership was in order.”
“Over 40 persons were barred from voting in Toco/Sangre Grand constituency several of whom I personally registered using the numbered membership forms prescribed by the elections committee. Is it that some people who were recommended by certain persons are being discriminated against?” Boynes added, “Also we had a case of a lady and her daughter who registered together, ahead of the deadline. She’s not on the list but her daughter is.”
Boynes said the team is compiling all the data on the situation and we’ll determine what steps it would take: “Elections must be free, fair and properly run giving contestants a reasonable chance to succeed. But what we’re seeing here, the party can take no heart from this exercise,” “This is about people’s choice and we must be sure people can vote for their choice. This situation speaks to the capacity of the current leadership team.”
Team Penny supporter Laventille West MP Nileung Hypolite said polling he’d seen was very slow—about 10 to 15 per cent— due to continuing election issues, he believed. Hypolite said he received reports of people campaigning “right outside” the information desk at the Barataria station. A report from San Fernando was a 14- year-old with the surname Thomas was on the voters list and actually voted, when the voting age was 16 and over. Team Penny has lodged a complaint on this.
Hypolite said people have complained ballot numbers are doubled and consecutive numbers mixed up. Hypolite added, “We (PNM) weren’t ready for this election If they had postponed it for a month maximum to sort out issues, we’d have gotten a higher turnout.”
“Whatever result, Team Penny can still celebrate. We will, if we win. But if we don’t, we can still celebrate as we’d have succeeded in going through this one-man-one-vote exercise for the first time and identified issues so the next time it’s done we’ll know the challenges and can correct them very early—and we have four years to do so before another party election.”
Team Rowley accused of canvassing
Canvassing for Team Rowley was allegedly being done at several polling stations including La Horquetta polling station, Team Penny’s east unit claimed yesterday. The unit made the complaint, saying a printed card with the names of Team Rowley candidates and a pre-printed “X” in the vote boxes was reportedly being given to voters entering the La Horquetta Polling Station. The unit said this amounted to canvassing, a practice strictly prohibited in the rules set by the Elections Supervisory Committee of the PNM.
However, PNM incumbent chairman Franklin Khan—defending the post on the Rowley slate—said one could give out cards and talk to people within the precincts of a polling station, but could not do so inside the station. Khan said he had no reports of problems. He said at the Moruga station where he was located, the turnout was “high—just like a general election,”
Some people went to Balisier House to follow up on queries about their names and the voting list. Diego Martin resident Mark Marcano said he went to Balisier House headoffice yesterday afternoon to ascertain why his name was not on the final list after it had been on the preliminary list. Marcano said his membership was in order and he had gone to speak to the elections commission on the situation.
Elections vice chairman: Too much complaints against Team Penny
PNM elections commission vice chairman Murchison Browne said while he had received several complaints about the voting process from Team Penny officials, there had also been accusations against that team about their operations. Browne spoke to T&T Guardian at 4 pm in between touring constituencies to monitor activities in PNM’s internal poll. He said the morning period indicated about 300 plus people voting with a slower process in the afternoon.
He said, “Even if we get a 20 per cent turnout, that’s good for the first time—it’s better than some others who use the one-man-one-vote process.” He said he’d heard about many Team Penny complaints, especially in Arima. Browne added he had received “about a thousand phone calls” from (MP Nileung ) Hypolite on various issues. Browne said all issues had to be taken to the presiding officer of the relevant station. He was at that time awaiting formal complaints
Browne said Tobago feedback was that voting was smoother with a good attendance at Scarborough schools polling stations. He said there was no negative feedback from south and central activity. At noon, incumbent general secretary Ashton Ford said apart from the “usual” problems of some people’s names not being on the list, everything was going smoothly .
At Port-of-Spain City Hall, the polling station for Port-of-Spain constituencies, the officer in charge said there had been a steady flow since 8 am. Around 11.15 am the line was very short. Those on hand included several members of a street sanitation crew who were working nearby. At the Diego Martin polling station on Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, about 200 people had voted up to 11 am.