No election violence!
The People’s National Movement’s St Joseph campaign team is seeking police intervention for the safety of St Joseph candidate Terrence Deyalsingh and activists after alleging that criminal activity and corrupt practices played out a recent incident in Bangladesh, St Joseph.
The matter follows an incident of alleged intimidation of PNM St Joseph activists which occurred last Sunday and also on Wednesday. It was reported to the St Joseph Police Station on Wednesday morning. That same day, PNM St Joseph campaign manager Noel Garcia sent a letter to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on the situation, naming three UNC activists as the alleged perpetrators.
The letter stated that last Sunday, the PNM’s St Joseph team had a walkabout on Farm Road and Bangladesh, St Joseph.
“We had an overwhelming show of support for our candidate. Following the walkabout, we received reports by one of our activists on Farm Road of gunshots being fired around his home at approximately 9 pm on the very night after the walkabout.
“This act was subsequently followed by the defacing, removal and destruction of PNM posters and banners that were placed on Farm Road at approximately 1.15 am on Wednesday, July 29.
“Further to these acts, threats of violence were made by known United National Congress activists, namely (names given) and our activists advised that the PNM candidate and PNM activists would not ‘be able to secure their safety if they are seen in the areas again.”
The letter added, “As you will no doubt appreciate, this is a source of grave concern and in addition to criminal conduct, such behaviour can also constitute the election offence of a corrupt practice through undue influence pursuant to Section 98 of the Representation of the People Act (ROP).
“We take these threats to our safety very seriously and view them also as an attack on our democratic right to freely support any political party of our choice. Given the nature of this matter, I would ask that you use your good office to have this matter quickly and thoroughly investigated and bring the perpetrators to answer for their actions, and to afford the candidate and activists protection in this area.”
Yesterday, Griffith said the St Joseph report was the only such complaint received regarding elections.
“All’s quiet on the front,” Griffith added.
The PNM hasn’t yet stated if it would copy the complaint to the Council for Responsible Behaviour.
UNC St Joseph candidate Ahloy Hunt admitted he knew two of the names in the PNM’s letter, noting they were brothers.
“One of them (name called) walks with us and his wife also. But he was injured recently and has been driving with us instead. His brother, however, isn’t an activist with us,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the police went to see the two men recently,“but based on the report, they told police it was not them as they don’t even live in the area. I also spoke to one of the men.”
Hunt said what is happening now is similar to what happened in the 2015 general election, when he claimed a “number of false reports were made against UNC activists. Asked if he was involved in the politics then, Hunt admitted he wasn’t but said he’d “heard” reports of issues.
“So we expect more of this to happen as it’s a disruptive activity used by the other side,” Hunt alleged.
“There was a shooting a couple weeks ago in Bangladesh regarding some land dispute but it had nothing to do with activists. That’s the only shooting we know of.
“In Bangladesh, there are clear supporters of UNC and PNM, but PNMites are in the minority. We know the other side is trying to employ things to disrupt what we’re doing in this area. We’re not about intimidating anyone and no one was hurt or intimidated in our campaigning in that area.’’
UNC PRO Anita Haynes added, “This is the first I’m hearing of this (matter). If the PNM made a police report, then it’s in the very capable hands of the police.’’
Contacted yesterday, political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said,“T&T’s code of political conduct has a clause that states there should be no intimidation of candidates or supporters and no one should resort to threatening language.”