Private sector condemns Lawrence over call for polling stations assembly
January 22 2020
The Private Sector Commission last evening condemned as “a direct threat to the peaceful conduct of the elections” calls by members of the governing coalition for their supporters to remain outside polling places until the Statement of Poll is posted.
The statement seemed to be particularly directed at the Chair of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Volda Lawrence who told a crowd at the Kitty Market square on Sunday “to remain there until they get it right” before declaring that party supporters should “follow the ballot box” and ensure that it is properly sealed by APNU+AFC party agents.
They further note “other similar reports in the media have been attributed to Winston Jordan and Mr. Basil Williams” but make no reference to actual statements made by either of the two men.
“The PSC views these statements with considerable concern as they are provocative, have all the potential for leading to a violent confrontation between the supporters of the contesting parties and are a direct threat to the peaceful conduct of the elections,” the commission said before calling on the coalition leaders President David Granger and Khemraj Ramjattan, to “immediately put a stop to these statements and to disassociate the APNU+AFC coalition party from them.” The comments made by Lawrence have also been criticized by People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) candidate Anil Nandlall
In a statement Nandlall claimed that “almost every political leader of APNU+AFC, speaking on the political platform, has been urging their supporters to assemble in large numbers at polling places at the close of polls to protect their ballots.
He noted that having worked since 1997, as an Assistant Elections Agent for Region 4 he can speak from personal knowledge of the dangers which underpin such political rhetoric.
“The unfortunate reality is that violence and riotous behaviour are closely connected to elections in this country. Invariably, they erupt from the very crowds which the PNC has historically caused to assemble at polling stations at the close of polls,” Nandlall argued reminding that In 2015, even senior APNU leaders could not control an assembled crowd that unleashed violence on the PPP/C’s candidates and activists in Sophia.
This violence led to the burning of Joe Hamilton’s car and a polling station, erupting in flames and burning to the ground, which was someone’s private residence in Sophia, Greater Georgetown.
He also claimed that at a primary school, located at Better Hope South, East Coast Demerara, which was used as a polling place, an assembly of PNC supporters quickly descended into a riotous mode and brutally assaulted his driver who was collecting PPP/C polling agents and Statements of Poll from that polling place.
“I emphasize that these atrocities occurred without PNC/APNU politicians calling publicly for their supporters to assemble at these places of polls when darkness descends….Just imagine if the PPP/C were to be equally irresponsible and provocative and call upon its supporters to also assemble at polling places at the close of poll alongside the coalition supporters,” he posited.
Others have similarly criticized these statement made by Lawrence while the Minister has remained silent.
According to the Representation of the People Act it is unlawful while within a distance of 200 yards of a polling place to annoy, molest or otherwise interfere with an elector or attempt to obtain any information as to the list of candidates for whom any elector in the polling place is about to vote or has voted either on his own behalf or as a proxy on behalf of another elector.
Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of sixty-five thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months.
The provision also states that any unauthorized person who obstructs or interferes with access to, or egress from, a polling place or the movement of documents, supplies and other material pertaining to an election, including ballot boxes and ballot papers shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $65,000 together with imprisonment for a term of one year and shall, in addition, be incapable during a period of five years from the date of conviction of participating in an election either as a voter or candidate.