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A Sad Day

December 17, 2000
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

December 11, 2000 will go down as a dark, dank and dismal day for Trinidad and Tobago. It marks the day when T&T took its first step towards becoming another Haiti; the moment when corruption entered the pores of the democratic system; a time when the decay of the moral center of the nation began. There can be no doubt that the election was stolen from the PNM. Patrick Manning can and will emerge as the next Prime Minister of the nation after all is said and done.

It must be reiterated that the UNC only captured 17 seats. If the rule of law prevails (and it will) the Pointe-a-Pierre and Ortoire/Mayaro seats must be awarded to the PNM for the simple reason that Winston Peters and William Chaitan were both ineligible to run for office. Therefore, they cannot take their seats in Parliament. The courts have no other recourse but to rule that these two seats belong to the PNM. For those who believe that perjury is a small matter, in a more sophisticated democracy a president was impeached for telling, what to his mind, must have been an insignificant lie, under oath. Most of us lie when we are caught in marital infidelities. That did not stop the US House of Representatives from impeaching President Clinton.

The notion that the people have spoken and therefore we ought to be guided by their wishes or that Peters and Chaitan did not lie intentionally is irrelevant. No one is willing to set a murderer free if he merely intended to wound someone when he administered his fatal blow. Nor, for that matter, are we willing to allow a 15 year old (who looked like eighteen) to represent a constituency if he was elected by the people. Incidentally, the people ís will seemed to of no consequence when Vincent Lasse and Rupert Griffith betrayed its PNM constituents and supported the UNC. Laws cannot be changed retrospectively to accommodate the desires of those who dishonor them.

President A. N. R. Robinson has no other choice than to ask Manning to head the next government since PNM possesses 18 as opposed to UNCís 17 seats. Using his discretion, the President should assume that Pointe-a-Pierre and Ortoire/Mayaro belong to the PNM until the court makes a final determination.

To understand the irregularities that took place in this election one only has to look at the Tunapuna situation. When the 2000 Votersí List came out, over four thousand names could not account for. After the election, over eleven hundred of those persons voted in Tunapuna. It is important to find out how many of these persons really live in the Tunapuna constituency. A systematic study may reveal that most of these persons voted illegally in Tunapuna. Certainly, the announcement by the head of the EBC that one should vote where oneís name appeared on the poling list did not help matters at all. It is mind boggling that an institution pledged to neutrality urged the electorate to violate a law that was set up for their own protection.

There were other irregularities as well. On Election Day, there were also reports that calls were being made by UNC representatives to persons with telephone codes 655- asking them to come out and vote in the Tunapuna constituency. Somaria Neverson, a senile woman, was brought to vote by her daughter, Pearl. When Somaria signed the affidavit, she asked if she was signing for her pension. Her daughter voted for her. At another address on Beccles Street, there were over ten additional persons that could not be found. When the PNM objected before the election, they were told there was nothing they cold do. When, Oswald Wilson of the EBC said that one could vote where one name appeared, such an announcement sealed the fate of Hart.

At about 5:10 p.m., on Election Day, Errol Jeffers rushed into the PNM tent in Tacarigua. He had gone down to a poling station at the El Dorado Senior Comprehensive only to discover that someone else had voted for him. Plead as he may, he was not allowed to vote. When Nigel Brathwaite arrived at Poling Station 1655, he discovered that the names of his mother, Ingrid Brathwaite, and sister Jay Brathwaite had voted already. The only problem with such efficiency was that both Ingrid and Jay reside in the USA. They could not have voted.

Voting in a constituency in which one does not belong does not only violate the law; it also deprives the residents of that community from selecting the candidate of their choice. The massive violation of the electoral law in the Tunapuna constituency suggests that the constituents did not elect Mervyn Assam to office. Phantom voters and massive irregularities determined Hartís fate. When one considers that Hart lost the Tunapuna seat by 299 votes, it is clear that these irregularities were responsible for his defeat. More importantly, they are sufficient to launch a formal objection (which will be done) and to call for a new election in Tunapuna.

On November 16, 1532, Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish conquistador, encountered emperor Atahuallpa, the absolute monarch of the Inca Empire, in Peruvian highland town of Cajamarca. With a ragtag group of 168 soldiers, Pizarro defeated Atahaullpa who commanded 80,000 soldiers. Although Pizarro used some of the most brutal methods to annihilate Atahaullpa and his men (he even executed Atahaullpa in the end, despite his promise not to do so), this encounter changed the entire course of American history. It was the decisive moment when the native peoples of America went into decline.

This might be too dramatic an analogy. However, if the UNC gets away with stealing this election, December 11, 2000 would stand as the day when democracy went into decline and anarchy began. A government elected under fraudulent circumstances can have no legitimacy. It simply heralds in the Haiti-nization of the society.

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