While long lines were reported at UNC polling stations from 8 am today in the party’s internal elections, reports of alleged violations of the system began even from last Saturday – and continued throughout today.
Incumbent leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar issued a statement just after noon- and her team issued another last night after a fake document circulated last night erroneously claiming she was stepping down and was supporting challenger Vasant Bharath. The fake document was on a UNC letterhead.
Persad- Bissessar stated; “It has come to my attention that a letter purporting to have been drafted by the General Secretary of the UNC claiming that an accommodation has been reached between myself and my opponent for Political Leader, Mr. Vasant Bharath, is currently being circulated on social media.
This letter is completely FAKE and appears to be created by persons attempting to cause confusion among the membership of the UNC who are heading out to the polls today.”
She added, “I state firmly that there has been no accommodation between myself and Mr. Vasant Bharath and as such, it is the duty of the members to vote for the persons they believe are best qualified to fill the positions on the National Executive.
This letter is nothing more than a last-minute distraction meant to create anxiety in the minds of our members in the hopes that Mr. Bharath might gain a few more votes.
It is my view that the UNC membership is, and always has been, savvy enough to ignore these types of diversionary tactics.
At the end of the day, I expect that my slate will emerge victorious despite the petty games and underhanded tactics being utilised by my opponents. “
She also said, “I urge our UNC members to go out and Vote for the STAR team, and re-elect me, Kamla Persad Bissessar, as your Political Leader, and together we will continue the hard work and the journey back into government.
That being said, I also ask that persons cease and desist from publishing or sharing of this fake letter and I reserve the right to engage legal pursuits against any entity caught doing so.”
Bharath denied any link to the fake letter, adding it seemed suspicious. He said the letter wasn’t issued by him or his team, “We know our opponents had made ‘administrative errors’ in the past and we trust this wasn’t another such instance on their part. We condemn vile actions from those trying to tarnish our campaign,” he said.
Both Persad-Bissessar’s team and point-man for Bharath – Devant Maharaj – confirmed there was an incident at the Aranguez station where Bharath was warned by Persad-Bissessar’s team that Bharath couldn’t wear a jersey with his symbol since he was campaigning. It was alleged that Bharath responded “aggressively.”
Bharath added at 2.30 pm, “The election rules don’t state that people can’t canvass or campaign or wear their jerseys today and we’re abiding by the rules.”
He slammed “gutter politics” by people who’d complained about his wearing his jersey in Aranguez.
“But we have reports of 15 people in some areas who were allowed to vote and their names were not on the voters’ list and that’s against rules. Also, we have an allegation that a supporter was paid $700 to park his car and not come out to vote. Plus people called police to try to remove our candidate’s car from the car park in Lengua.”
The Bharath team was warned against canvassing in several places where this was observed including canvassing on the radio.
But Devant Maharaj also claimed MPs Vandana Mohit and Michelle Benjamin had to be evicted from two stations since they had no authorisation letters to be there. But the election team couldn’t confirm that.
UNC election team chairman Ramesh Persad-Maharaj told Guardian Media that canvassing was not allowed “by any candidate or team.”
He confirmed canvassing was the main problem being noted today and people generally, violating rules were being warned. He said he visited 12 stations and voter turnout was fairly strong.
Bharath’s team is observing tonight’s post-poll activity at Doc’s Ranch, Phillipine. Persad- Bissessar’s team will be doing a live stream of results.