LET ELECTIONS BE FREE AND FAIR
Monday, January 21 2013
DR NORBERT Masson, Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) — the body which administers elections — yesterday urged voters to maintain a “positive mental attitude” and called for a “free and fair” process in today’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.
In an interview with Newsday, Masson urged voters to let nothing come in the way of exercising their franchise.
“The important thing is to maintain a positive mental attitude,” Masson said. “You know what you have to do. Exercise your franchise freely and fairly. Let no man interrupt your action. Let it be free and fair. In that way, the result will be a true reflection of the will of the people of Tobago. That is what we are hoping for.”
Masson held meetings with staff and police officials, inspected polling divisions on the island — including some where new ramps have been installed to allow disabled persons to have better access — as final preparations were underway for the opening of polling stations at 6 am.
“The weather has been fine and we are hoping that a similar condition prevails on polling day,” he said adding, he has met with the police to oversee measures to ensure that polling starts at 6 am sharp.
Three parties are contesting: the incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM); the Platform for Truth (PFT) and the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP). Parties campaigned right down to the wire with events on Saturday night and motorcades on Sunday. PNM Tobago Council leader Orville London seeks another four-year term as Chief Secretary. But also vying for the post are PFT leader Hochoy Charles and TOP leader Ashworth Jack.
The result of today’s election will be the outcome of what has arguably been the most keenly-contested THA election in the country’s history.
For about a month, the parties held rallies and cottage meetings across the length and breadth of the island, including at: Argyle, Belle Garden, Bethel, Bethesda, Bethlehem, Betsy Hope, Black Rock, Bloody Bay, Bon Accord, Buccoo, Calder Hall, Canaan, Carnbee, Castara, Charlotteville, Delaford, Des Vignes Road, Friends Field, Glamorgan, Glen Road, Golden Lane, Goodwood, Hope, John Dial, L’Anse Fourmi, Lambeau, Les Coteux, Louis D’Or, Lowlands, Mary’s Hill, Mason Hall, Milford Court, Mt Marie, Mt Grace, Mt Pleasant, Mt St George, Parlatuvier, Patience Hill, Pembroke, Plymouth, Roxborough, Sangster’s Hill, Scarborough, Signal Hill, Sou Sou Lands, Speyside, Spring Garden, Union, Whim, and Zion Hill.
Both Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (leader of the coalition Government which includes the TOP) and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley (PNM political leader) were yesterday on the island ahead of the poll. President George Maxwell Richards is also expected to be in Tobago later this week for the inauguration of the next occupant of the office of Chief Secretary at Calder Hall. Special voting yesterday closed for the 755 special voters, a group which includes members of the Police Service, Defence Force and Prison Service; Elections and Boundaries Commission staff; flight crew; offshore workers.
While the EBC’s Central Electoral Office in Port-of-Spain and Tobago Registration Area Office at Scarborough ran special voting from January 15 to January 17, special
voting at other special offices established by returning officers in the various districts were due to end yesterday.
Last week, Masson issued a warning that cellphones would not be allowed into polling booths and that the police have been written to in this regard. Masson toured polling stations yesterday evening. Checks were done to ensure there were no party promotional material within 100 yards of polling stations.
The names of the polling districts of Belle Garden/Goodwood and Roxborough Delaford have been changed to Goodwood Belle Garden West and Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford respectively. According to the EBC’s Tenth Report on the Electoral Area of Tobago, the electorate as at August, 2012, was 46,095.
This broke down into: Bacolet/Mt. St George 3,473; Goodwood/Belle Garden West 3,934; Bethel/Mt Irvine 4,004; Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden 4,250; Buccoo/Mt Pleasant 3,957; Canaan/Bon Accord 3,729; Lambeau/Signal Hill 4,072; Parlatuvier/L’Anse Foumi/Speyside 3,513; Plymouth/Golden Lane 3,632; Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah 4,029; Belle Garden East/ Roxborough Delaford 3,611; Scarborough/Calder Hall 3,891.
The voter turnout in the last THA election in 2009 was 56.39 percent, up from 54.43 percent in 2005. In 2001, the turnout was 60.13 percent.
All three parties are fielding candidates in the 12 polling districts. The last election was won by the PNM (8) over the TOP (4).
The EBC last week published the list of electoral offences as outlined under the Representation of the People Act. Polls close at 6 pm.