Published On: Mon, Nov 26th, 2012

Residents confirm electoral shortcomings in Turks and Caicos

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands – With a challenge being filed in respect of the election results of North and Middle Caicos Election District Number 4 in the Turks and Caicos Islands, residents of the district have now publicly aired the difficulties they experienced in trying to vote.

One senior resident, a former elected member of parliament, who resides on North Caicos, reported that he, his wife and adult daughter all registered to vote, completed their applications and had their pictures taken. However, when the preliminary voters list was issued the daughter’s name was not on the list. A challenge was made and the election officials reported they had no record of the daughter’s photo and could not issue a voter’s card. This problem was never resolved.

A campaign worker reported that when Supervisor of Elections, Dudley Lewis, arrived to meet with representatives of both parties and issue the revised voters list he remained at the North Caicos airport and only gave the list to PNP campaign workers who he summoned to the airport.

A police officer stationed on North Caicos, who asked that his identity remain secret, reported that he was aware of manipulations of voter registrations, which included keeping non residents on the list and a failure to add certain voters to the list.

“There was an all out move to control the results of this district’s election,” he said.

A campaign worker has also reported that, on the eve of the election, vote buying was underway in the Kew district.

According to another report, a local attorney and former Progressive National Party (PNP) speech writer voted in the Middle Caicos Lorimers voting station. It has been confirmed that this person’s name was not on the voters list and that he has resided in Provo for over 15 years. A well known resident of Middle Caicos has confirmed that the attorney and another well known non-Middle Caicos resident PNP supporter were present on Middle Caicos during the voting period. Reportedly, he was refused the right to vote in one other voting station and then travelled to Lorimers to cast his vote.

The election petition in relation to this district, filed by PDM candidate Ashwood Leon Forbes, alleges a number of failures by Lewis to remove or transfer disqualified voters from the constituency voters list and corresponding failures to register qualified voters.

Forbes also alleges instances of harassment and bribery of voters by a known agent of the successful PNP candidate Don-Hue Gardiner.

Further, according to Forbes, there were insufficient voter ballots at polling stations, thus preventing registered voters from casting their ballots.

Meanwhile, the attorney general Huw Shepheard has confirmed that he has been served with an election petition in respect of the election in the Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hills Electoral District in Provo.

The petition filed by PDM candidate Oral Isaac Selver is grounded in an alleged failure by a third party candidate, Edward E. Smith of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), to declare his US citizenship and was thus disqualified under section 49(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Commenting on the petition, Shepheard said, “If that is true, the election may be declared void and, if it is, a by-election must be held.”

He went on to say that the challenge would not affect the government until the court made its ruling.

“The legal position is that a member of the House of Assembly continues to be a member until the petition has been heard and determined. The government therefore continues on its existing basis. If the petition is successful, the member will cease to be a member of the House of Assembly and there will be a by-election.”

Shepheard also commented on election petitions in general, saying, “The petition is essentially a private dispute between an unsuccessful candidate and a successful candidate; there is no ‘defendant’ to a petition, there are one or more ‘respondents’, but an unsuccessful candidate at an election cannot be a respondent unless he or she consents. The government, as an entity, is neutral but has an interest in the outcome, as it may have to arrange a by-election or take other action and so the attorney general is usually a party to the proceedings. That is the position in this case. In addition, the supervisor of elections has been included as a respondent and will be represented by the attorney general.”

Given that the winning party in the election, the PNP, obtained only an eight to seven seat majority over the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), any successful challenge could result in an immediate change of government, raising the spectre of a similar situation in 2003 when the situation was reversed and a successful challenge by the PNP in one district resulted in a by-election in which the PNP prevailed, thereby giving them the government.

Source: Caribbean news now

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