The Opposition United National Congress and ruling People’s National Movement yesterday accused each other of canvassing and causing other problems in various marginal areas during the Local Government Election.
The UNC alleged that inducements were offered, citizens were not allowed to vote and there were problems with Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) officials in some areas. The Opposition also claimed the driver of a UNC candidate was allegedly beaten up.
By 3 pm yesterday, nine hours into voting, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed concern over reported incidents and irregularities with the voting process.
“This is cause for alarm. This campaign was fraught with issues ... PNM used every tactic to try to deflect attention from their inability to govern,” she said.
She added: “We’ve had several examples in which it seems the EBC officials haven’t been consistent in their application of the law. While over 130 returning officers allowed persons wearing similar-coloured green t-shirts to access polling stations as polling agents, in at least two separate reported instances—in Diego Martin and Sangre Grande—our polling agents were prohibited because the returning officer felt the green colour was too close to yellow. Our attorneys were forced to step in to resolve it.
“There are multiple instances in which polling agents scheduled to work at poll stations were reportedly approached by persons representing another political party and offered inducements to stand down. However, our polling agents remaining committed, turned out to work.”
The UNC leader said an incident of a PNM candidate allegedly blocking voters was also reported to the police.
She further alleged that Rajeesh Ramdhan, of Valencia, a driver for UNC Candidate Darielle Williams-Cummings, was driving around on election duties when five men “jumped” him and beat him up and robbed him of his cell phone valued at $500.
UNC PRO Anita Haynes said in Moruga the party reported to the police and EBC officials that a person had gone into the party’s station in that area and removed materials.
“People identified the woman as being from PNM. Police spoke to her,” she said.
“We received reports of alleged inducements offered in Otaheite. At 9.20 am we got a report of a (named PNM official) offering people $200 at a Lady Hailes panyard. There was also report of alleged PNM canvassing in Sangre Grande South.”
Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh said in marginal California/Pt Lisas, some officers didn’t go through binders to look for people’s names as is usually done.
“In a group of 12 people, one was allowed to vote. People were being turned away,” he said
Fyzabad MP Barry Padarath said he encountered problems to vote in Couva, where EBC officers called him “Barry Bara” and were unsure of what they were doing. He cited others having similar experiences and accused the EBC of making “blunder after blunder.”
Persad-Bissessar said she was also aware that another party used vehicles with EBC stickers issued by the police to transport personnel in boroughs and cities.
“Our lawyers advised this isn’t in keeping with the Representation of the People Act which advises the regional municipalities and the ratio of cars permissible.
UNC general secretary Dave Tancoo wrote the Police Commissioner on the matter.