Queries have been raised over the UNC’s presiding officers for Sunday’s internal election
But UNC election management team chairman Ramesh Persad-Maharaj has said whatever the personal loyalties of the election’s presiding officers, his team has asked them to perform their duties impartially, honestly and without fear or favour.
Persad-Maharaj stated this in a letter yesterday to UNC leadership challenger Vasant Bharath, reprimanding Bharath for being doubtful of the presiding officers’ impartiality.
Bharath who’s fighting incumbent leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has expressed concern that some presiding officers may be “supporters and enablers of a particular candidate.”
The list of presiding officers included the name of a defeated general election UNC candidate in a North East area. That name was selected for a seat in that same area by UNC’s screening team headed by Persad-Bissessar.
A training session for presiding officers was held yesterday, Persad- Maharaj told Guardian Media.
Bharath also wrote Persad-Maharaj threatening lawsuit regarding matters concerning the latter and other issue involved in Sunday’s exercise.
A copy of the list of presiding officers issued yesterday showed there were still presiding officers to be supplied in 11 polling stations in the five regions into which the UNC has organised districts in Trinidad and Tobago.
There are 78 polling stations including one in Tobago. The incumbent’s Siparia area has the most stations – five.
The list stated presiding officers were “to be supplied” in Chaguanas West, Couva North and South, Arouca/Maloney, St Anns East, St Augustine, La Brea, Mayaro, Moruga, Naparima, Princes Town.
On presiding officers, Devant Maharaj, who’s also against the incumbent, alleged yesterday, “The mere fact the list of presiding officers involves brother-in-law and sister-in-law and other people whose impartiality might be questioned signals an element of ‘rigging’ regarding someone’s bid and that shows the closeness of the race and the other side’s desperation.”
However, Persad-Maharaj’s letter to Bharath stated, “At this moment, we are conducting training sessions of the Presiding and other officers who will be on duty on election day. We have already sent you the list of presiding officers with their telephone numbers.”
“Whatever their personal loyalties we have requested all of them to perform their duties impartially, honestly and without fear or favour and they have all agreed to that.”
“You are picking at straws when you say they are supporters and enablers of a particular candidate. They might be your supporters also. We do not believe they are compromised in any way whatsoever. How can you be so narrow-minded?”
He also responded to accusations Bharath made against the team on Tuesday. Persad- Maharaj said, “When we say we are independent, we mean it. We do not twiddle our thumbs and await instructions from anybody. You are so mistaken and misguided! It is difficult to converse with someone who is a Doubting Thomas.”
“We wish to stress that the loss or victory of any candidate depends on the amount of votes he/she receives from the eligible voters. We are not deciding the election results. The voters will.”
“The election is widely advertised and the voters are going to decide for themselves who they are voting for. Nobody can force them to do what they do not want to do.”
Persad-Maharaj added, “Please do not use us as a scapegoat. We are only the managers of the process. We have nothing to gain or lose.”
Persad-Bissessar’s slate continued campaigning over the last two days. Last night former PP Minister/retired ILP leader Jack Warner was scheduled to make an appearance at Bharath’s meeting.
Another complaint by Bharath to election team chairman Persad-Maharaj stated, “Your notice has no basis either in the published election rules or in the Constitution. The election rules do not place restrictions on election agents and certainly do not circumscribe them to only being members of the party…. your notice in this regard has no basis in law, is null, void and of no effect. It is therefore not binding on me.”
“Further, while the official election rules have been certified by all members of your committee, this new notice only contains your signature. You cannot vary the election rules of this election unilaterally or arbitrarily. Please remember you are chairman of a committee and unless some evidence of approval by all members of your committee is submitted, I intend to ignore your notice.”
“I’m now concerned you may be engaged in deliberate misrepresentation given the absence of signatures by other committee members… should you not be able to produce evidence of certification by all members of the committee, questions of fraudulent misrepresentations may arise.”
“You should be aware that purporting to make representations on behalf of other persons, in the context of a contract, when no authorization has been given is a potentially serious issue which may have legal consequences.”
“Further, given that you’ve already promulgated rules, which are akin to terms of a contract, you cannot vary these terms without my consent. I repeat; neither the election rules nor the constitution contain prohibitions against non-members being polling agents.”
“The party doesn’t adopt that position for general elections in the case of polling agents or sub agents and cannot adopt that requirement. The very precedent form which you’ve attached to the notice doesn’t require the inclusion of information such as a person’s membership number.
Any attempt to unilaterally enforce this requirement would constitute a breach of contract and/or the tortious interference of contract among members and will be resisted by lawsuit against you in your personal capacity.”