Defeated United National Congress (UNC) candidate for the St Joseph constituency Ahloy Hunt is questioning the motives of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Hunt appeared before the media in a conference hosted by the UNC at its Eastern regional Office in El Dorado on Saturday afternoon.
He spoke beside fellow candidates Sean Sobers and Jearlean John on the ongoing recounts of ballots cast in the 2020 General Election, which was held on Monday.
Following an initial result that saw the UNC losing the Elections, the party requested recounts in five constituencies, including San Fernando West, St Joseph, Tunapuna, La Horquetta/Talparo, and Toco/Sangre Grande.
According to Hunt, the recount which began on Tuesday, saw several irregularities arising from the process. These irregularities which he referred to as “alarming,” in nature, were the alleged denial of access to specimen signatures and diaries that recorded voters who cast ballots on Monday without the use of an identification card. After requests for these items were denied, Hunt said that the party was told this information was under the discretion of the returning officer. As such, requests were made to the EBC. However, he said no response has since been given.
“What we’ve seen in our recount as representatives of the United National Congress has been alarming, first of all some of my colleagues stated that especially in Tunapuna to have a specimen signature present. None was provided, we were flatly told that none would be provided so we have nothing to compare to the signatures on the ballot which for me is unbelievable in itself.”
“Secondly we asked to see diaries so that we can have an account of people who came to vote possibly without ID cards and we were told that those diaries would not be available for us to see. We queried on several occasions why this is so and it was stated to us that it will be under the discretion of the returning officer. Of course, we objected, we sent letters from our legal team to the EBC and until now we have not received replies to our queries,” he said.
In addition to these issues he said, 25 ballot boxes were counted without a representative of the UNC being present to witness the process. The party, he said, was prepared to engage in the recount between the hours of 9.a.m. to 5.p.m. daily. However, on three occasions he said, EBC officers remained past the allotted time and counted the 25 boxes in question. He said that this decision was taken by the EBC on the request of the competing party, the PNM.
“Those first two, as alarming as they are, the most alarming thing that we have had is 25 ballot boxes counted in our absence. Let me repeat that for the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago. 25 were counted in the absence of any representative of the UNC. On Tuesday the first day of the recount, it is made abundantly clear to all present by the returning officer that a schedule would be sent from 9.a.m. to 5.p.m. which we have adhered to on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
“Subsequently on Wednesday, the returning officer on the urging and prompting of the PNM leader said that we would go beyond 5.p.m., which we did, we went until 6.p.m. so that we could finish one of the ballot boxes. We understood that they went until 11.p.m. and they counted four boxes in our absence. On Thursday we stated to them that we were not present. We sent a letter to the EBC on Thursday reiterating that the schedule was set from 9a.m. to 5.p.m. We went promptly, we were there and went further until six o'clock until one of the ballot boxes was finished.”
“We understand they went again without any UNC representative being there and they counted five boxes. Last night the same thing happened, we went from 9a.m. to 5.p.m and they continued after the allotted time from 6.p.m. to 11.p.m. Miraculously they counted 16 boxes in our absence. That means they have counted 25 boxes in what is supposed to be democratic transparent process without us being present. Just the math alone, it is impossible to count 16 boxes. On a normal day, we counted eight boxes from 9a.m. to 5.p.m.” he said.
These events, he called, “highly suspicious”, questioning the alignment of the EBC. He added that the democratic process was not being followed but that instead, the Government was intent on creating a racial divide in the country.
“That is highly suspicious, I am not afraid to say it and question the motives of the EBC. I do not care if they are offended because what is important is that the process is seen through and is seen as democratic and transparent. That has clearly not happened here. I leave it to the public now who have been leavened by an uncaring Government, by a Prime Minister intent on inciting the racial divide, because when he has no options he turns only to that and then blames it on our political leader.”
“Everything has been clear, we cannot let things be dedicated by the EBC on their own terms The EBC has to remain impartial. The optics must be one that they cannot be compromised, that they are unbiased and that that is important for our democracy. Anybody can come and try to intimate that we are being obstructionists, but we do not accept and we do not accept the bullying of Colm Imbert. He had no legal standing and no moral standing to talk to anyone about anything,” he said.
Asked about the absence of the party's political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar at today's press conference and her disappearance from the public since losing the election, the UNC's public relations officer Anita Haynes said: "I am the public relations officer. It is my job to treat with the press….Our political leader is doing the job she is required to do…”.