Returning Officer for Central Leeward in the December 2015 general elections, Winston Gaymes

The Organisation of American States (OAS) team that observed the December 2015 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) says that the returning officer for Central Leeward, Winston Gaymes, was biased toward the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) during the final count in that constituency on Dec. 10.

Central Leeward is one of two constituencies in which the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is challenging the results of the general elections, which electoral officials say were won by the ULP.

The OAS on Friday released its final report on the general elections, in which it commented on its observation during the final count at the Layou Police Station.

Gaymes and the Election Clerk, Clyde Robinson as well as the two contesting candidates in that constituency — Sir Louis Straker of the ULP and Benjamin Exeter of the NDP, along with several agents for each candidate were represent at the count.

Members of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Service who were observing or assisting with the process of the final count, while multiple other officers (several of them armed) secured the room in which the count took place and the building itself, the OAS said.

Commenting under the rubric “Partiality of the Returning Officer”, the report said, “The bias of the Returning Officer towards the ULP candidate and agents was clear.

“During the period witnessed by the OAS Observers, the RO routinely ignored attempts by the NDP agents to gain his attention, responded to their concerns or objections in a dismissive or exasperated fashion, or complained that they were wasting his time. On the other hand, concerns voiced by ULP agents were immediately addressed and in one particular instance converted by the Returning Officer into a new instruction for the counting process. It was notable that the instruction was revoked only after a lead ULP agent agreed that it should be,” the OAS said.

The report also said there was incorrect application of seals on ballot boxes.

“On several ballot boxes, while tie-locks had been placed in the required locations around the perimeter of the box and through the flap covering the slot, the seal was not placed across the slot itself,” the report said.

It said that in some cases the seal was placed on the flat part of the box cover, in a fashion similar to a sticker.

The OAS said that in one case, CL-D — located the Barrouallie Government School — the seal was not on the box at all, but was wrapped around one of the locks.

“The NDP agents noted that in these cases they could not be certain that tampering had not taken place, and requested that the Returning Officer note their concerns.”

The OAS also spoke of the issue of the absence of the presiding officer’s stamp and initials on some ballots:

“In two ballot boxes, which were both incorrectly sealed, a number of ballots had neither the stamp nor initial of the Presiding Officer. As this applied to the ballots for both the ULP and the NDP, and as the relevant ballots had been cut in such a way (on the slant) so that a small portion of the ballot had been removed along with the counterfoil, it appeared that the Presiding Officer had simply removed the counterfoil in such a way that his/her stamp and initial remained on the counterfoil itself.

“The NDP agents requested permission to view the counterfoils to confirm that the stamp and initials were present. This request was refused by the Returning Officer. Repeated appeals and objections by the NDP agents were ignored by the Returning Officer,” the OAS said.

However, the OAS said that notwithstanding its concerns, its observers “did not discern any fraudulent or other activities at the Final Count which could have materially affected the outcome of the vote in which the ULP candidate won by 313 votes.”

The OAS said the issues it raised in the report “indicate a need for further training in rules and procedures for staff at all levels of the electoral machinery in order to reduce or eliminate the variations observed in the treatment of the ballots and ballot boxes.

“A greater awareness of the need for professionalism and impartiality in the conduct of the electoral process, and closer screening of senior electoral officers to ensure that they comply with this indispensable requirement, will help to ensure citizens have greater faith in the electoral process and its stewards,” the OAS said.

The NDP has filed election petitions challenging the result of the elections in Central Leeward and North Windward.

Those petitions will be heard on May 27.

Regional and international observers have declared the elections free and fair, but the NDP is maintaining that the ULP stole the vote.

The ULP was returned to officer for a fourth term by a one-seat majority, a repeat of the December 2010 election results.

6 replies on “Central Leeward returning officer was bias towards ULP — OAS”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    The most important paragraph states that:

    “However, the OAS said that notwithstanding its concerns [bias and errors], its observers ‘did not discern any fraudulent or other activities at the Final Count which could have materially affected the outcome of the vote in which the ULP candidate won by 313 votes.'”

    Of course, those who are biased on the other side will ignore this critical qualification in their zeal to discredit the election results.

    As I never tire of asserting, the main problems with the election and many other happenings in SVG are neither bias nor wickedness but rather stupidity, sloppiness, incompetence, indifference, and laziness.

    The only solution is to put running elections in the hands of independent and competent outsiders from abroad, something no governing party will ever allow.

    1. Watching Hard says:

      An independent Eastern Caribbean Electoral Commission that is self funded would be great.

    2. Jeannine James says:

      Cb-D, what makes that potboiler in the OAS report a critical qualification? I don’t get it. Mainly because I prefer to live, let live and have no interest in controlling anything outside of my personal space, I have no quarrel with what large swatches of Vincentians decide on as their values, be it stupidity, laziness, sloppiness or whatever but that does not mean that what the OAS observers did not see is the most important point.

      As to your vote of confidence for Mr. Gaymes and the backhanded compliment you’ve paid him, I doubt that anyone ever seriously claimed that he was a master of high intrigue or similar. All he has to be in this case is completely malleable, ductile, to be well convinced and to be able to follow simple instructions. Those requirements for the “job” dovetail nicely with stupid, sloppy, incompetent, indifferent and lazy.

      Furthermore, I reject the notion that to have discredited the election results and to ignore the qualification you call critical (and that I could call superfluous or “sound and fury signifying nothing”) , one must be biased towards the other. What about a bias towards truth? Did you ever factor that in? Do you have the whole truth? I don’t.

  2. A pretty damning report even if it is cloaked in ridiculous’ diplomacy.

    Why cannot the OAS come out and say these elections are suspect and cannot be relied upon, because that is the fact of the matter.

    Because they did not see someone stuffing ballots in the boxes, it happened during the night before the final count, they say the did not see anything happen. That to me is an opt out as far as I am concerned.

    1. Yes, in a nutshell it is saying ‘We see how cheating could have very easily occurred, but we did not witness it first-hand so therefore we say it was a fair election.’ It is much like saying “that person with the motive, the means, and the weapon could have killed that other person while they were in a room alone together but since we did not see it, the person is surely innocent of the murder.”

    2. C. ben-David says:

      If you are right, then why did the final count differ from the first count on Election Day by only one vote?

      I know Winston Gaymes. He is a pretty honest guy ( at least by our low Vincie standards). More important, he doesn’t have the smarts to pull off the complex scam you and other sore losers are saying occured.

      Peter, it is long past time to end fighting the last election and start planning the next one by dumping this chronic loser of an opposition leader and doing a complete housecleaning of the party by also dumping unelectable people like Linton Lewis.

      A young, dynamic leader needs to be chosen to compete against Camillo in 2019.

      Otherwise, the NDP should just go into receivership.

Comments are closed.