KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — The Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay Monday said that her office is “committed to free, fair and transparent elections” as she expressed disappointment that opposition supporters regarded a meeting at her office on Sunday as part of the efforts to rig the Dec. 9 general elections in favour of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP).
“The Office of the Supervisor of Elections wishes to record its profound disappointment with the latest display of disrespect meted out by a small sector of the Vincentian Community, but which nonetheless can do irreparable damage to the high regard in which the Vincentian electoral system has been held since 1951 when the nation conducted its first elections.
“The Office is committed to free, fair and transparent elections. The Office is equally convinced that when all the facts are known, it will be evident that the allegations which are now being made are based on misinformation and half-truths and untruths,” Findlay said in a lengthy statement.
She said that since Nov. 7, when the date for the general election was announced, the records would show that “I have been at the Electoral Office every day until Sunday 13th December- Saturdays and Sundays included.
“My work day, even on weekends, ran from approximately 8:30 a.m. to as late as 12 midnight on Sunday, 6th December. The full-time staff of the Electoral Office has also worked every day of the week from Monday 9th November to Tuesday 8th December from as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 12 midnight. I hasten to add this also obtained in 2009 for the Referendum as well as for the 2010 General Election.”
Video recordings showed opposition supporters gathered outside the Electoral Office in the capital on Sunday calling on the Supervisor of Elections and at least one other person, Winston Gaymes, returning officer for Central Leeward to indicate the reason behind their meeting.
But in the statement, Findlay said that after having heard the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Arnhim Eustace allege during a news conference “voting irregularities in the Central Leeward constituency” she contacted the Returning Officer and the Election Clerk and “requested an urgent meeting to review the issues raised at the NDP press conference.
“I felt that Sunday afternoon seemed like a convenient time to meet since the meeting could be held in a quiet, uninterrupted setting. Additionally, I needed to be clear on the way forward as the office continued its post-election duties.”
She said that soon after the meeting began “almost immediately a crowd gathered, with at least two males who were using video cameras”.
She said when the meeting was ended, Gaymes and the Election Clerk, Clyde Robinson, were confronted “by a hostile crowd.
“Thanks to the excellent work of the two police officers on duty at the Electoral Office, both gentlemen were safely escorted to their respective vehicles. I stood just outside the doorway of the Electoral Office building observing what was taking place while being subjected to verbal abuse from those persons gathered in front of the building.
“It was at this time I overheard a female who appeared to be one of the organisers of the protest saying to two male protesters ‘Do not touch her. I will not agree to that’. Not being sure who she was referring to, I telephoned the Commissioner of Police and requested police escort to my home. I also telephoned my brother to drive me home.
“As I left the building and entered my brother’s waiting vehicle, I was again subjected to more verbal attacks by the protesters who among other things demanded to know why I was at the Electoral Office on a Sunday.”
Findlay said that during the time the meeting was taking place, “a young lady hired to clean the Customer Service area and other spaces in the Electoral Office that could not be cleaned on Friday afternoon because of the collection of ballot boxes and election material,” was present.
In her statement, she said on the day of the election, she received “a total of eight letters of complaint on behalf of the NDP” and that the NDP leader had also telephoned to registered “his strong objection to the Electoral Office providing two different Voters’ Lists to the NDP and the ULP outside agents in East Kingstown.
“It must be noted that the Electoral Office provided two identical sets of Voters’ Lists to both parties on 2nd December, 2015 for distribution to their agents. Mr. Eustace confirmed that the agents on the inside of the polling stations in East Kingstown had the same lists as the Presiding Officers and Poll Clerks,” she added.
The NDP has said it will boycott the sittings of the Parliament and would refuse to have its members sworn in as legislators while it pursues legal actions to get the results of the polls nullified.
Eustace led the NDP to a fourth consecutive defeat at the polls, losing by an 8-7 margin.