The United National Congress is expressing grave concern over the revelation by the Elections and Boundaries Commission that the process for the issuance of ballot papers to Special Electors was not properly followed with respect to certain electoral districts.
In a statement issued by the party’s General Secretary on Thursday 21st November, 2019, Mr Davendranath Tancoo noted that this is a significant matter, as 40 Electoral Districts have been affected.
The EBC has stated via a press release today that the ballots would be retrieved by the EBC and sent to the Government Printer for destruction, new ballots reprinted and the entire process of packaging of ballots for the Special Electors will have to be redone.
To our knowledge this is the first incident of its kind in the history of the conduct of our elections that twenty-nine percent (29%) of the Electoral Districts in Trinidad have been adversely affected. By our calculation, several thousand persons are affected.
The party notes that at a meeting on Thursday 24th October 2019 with the EBC, we were assured that the EBC will ensure consistency in the application of the Election Rules during this Local Government Election.
However, since then, the UNC had cause to write to the EBC to highlight the differences in practices by returning officers with regard to the retention of nomination forms subsequent to the preliminary review of forms ahead of Nomination Day 2019. There were also issues and inconvenience as it relates to the late introduction of new forms by the EBC in certain areas.
The party calls upon the EBC to advise what measures have been put in place to ensure that the Special Electors in these 40 Electoral Districts are not adversely affected by these incidents.
Further, the election rule which the EBC is depending on seems to be specific to errors/defects in printing and does not necessarily cover the present circumstances, which the EBC has described as procedural.
In the circumstances, the UNC has asked that the EBC advise time and venue and that the political parties be allowed to witness the accounting and destruction of the ballots effectively spoiled by the EBC.
It is unfortunate that our candidates and/or their agents are to be inconvenienced during the height of the campaign season because of the EBC’s error. Our candidates have been running a heavily localized campaign which includes a rigorous walkabout schedule to endure they meet with all the persons they are seeking to represent, they must now leave this to treat with the EBC’s mistake.
The Local Government Election has generated significant interest and is being keenly contested. Citizens must be able to trust that our electoral process is free, fair and democratic.
Our electoral process must be one that is above reproach and can withstand scrutiny. The people of Trinidad and Tobago must know that the Government is the one we elected and not one who seized power via a questionable process.