Complaints of problems in yesterday’s UNC internal election came from both incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Star team and challenger Vasant Bharath’s Lotus team.
Dr John Bharath, father of challenger Vasant Bharath, said he was unable to vote as his name wasn’t on the voting list.
Agricultural Society head Dhanoo Sookoo also queried why her name wasn’t on the voting list. She was recently screened by the PNM among Toco/Sangre Grande general election nominees and was rejected. Her problem yesterday was brought to Guardian Media’s attention by Bharath’s camp.
Long lines of voters were reported at the UNC’s 78 polling stations from 8 am.
UNC elections chairman Ramesh Persad-Maharaj said there was a “fairly strong” turnout.
He confirmed canvassing was the main problem note yesterday and people generally, who violated rules were being warned. He said canvassing wasn’t allowed by any candidate or team since it was an accepted norm that this wasn’t done on an election day. He confirmed Bharath’s team was warned against canvassing, including on the radio.
Ahead of yesterday’s voting, problems arose since last Saturday after a fake letter to members was circulated on social media that day erroneously claiming incumbent leader Persad-Bissessar was supporting challenger Bharath and an accommodation had been reached. The fake document was on a UNC letterhead.
Persad-Bissessar’s team issued a denial that night—and she emphasised it yesterday.
She said the letter was completely fake and appeared “to be created” by persons attempting to confuse yesterday’s voters.
Persad-Bissessar added there was no accommodation and “This letter is nothing more than a last-minute distraction meant to create anxiety in the minds of our members in the hopes Mr Bharath might gain a few more votes.”
MP Dave Tancoo who was on her slate, related an incident at the Aranguez polling station where Bharath was warned by Persad-Bissessar’s team that he couldn’t wear a jersey with his symbol since he was campaigning.
Tancoo claimed Lotus team candidates, Larry Lalla, Jason Peru, Ramona Ramdial and Kamini Ramraj overstayed the ten-minute period that candidates were allowed to be in polling stations.
Tancoo who said canvassing was also done by microphones, accused opponents of using “a disgusting display of tactics”.
Guardian Media was told Sookoo’s name wasn’t on the voting list as she didn’t meet UNC constitution criteria since she was recently screened by PNM.
Bharath said there were many irregularities.
“We have reports 15 people who were allowed to vote and their names weren’t on the voters’ list. People called police to try to remove our candidate’s car from the car park in Lengua.”
His team issued a video of his father Dr John Bharath, former St Augustine MP, saying his name wasn’t on the voting life where he usually voted at Tunapuna Hindu school though he was a lifetime member, holding card 0001. He said he assumed his card was the first UNC had issued.
Dr Bharath said an official at UNC’s head office apologetically told him his name wasn’t on the list of those recorded as lifetime members. Bharath said he was also told at El Dorado voting station that his name wasn’t on the list.
On the altercation at Aranguez polling station, challenger Bharath responded, “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 including councillors” who’d complained.
Bharath said the “fake” letter circulated last Saturday wasn’t issued by him or his team, “We know our opponents made ‘administrative errors’ in the past. We trust this wasn’t another such instance on their part. We condemn vile actions from those trying to tarnish our campaign.”
Devant Maharaj claimed MPs Vandana Mohit and Michelle Benjamin were evicted from stations since they had no authorisation letters to be there.
At 5 pm Maharaj who said voter turnout was low, added, many didn’t get to vote—including Dr Bharat Bassaw, who was told his name wasn’t on the list.