Police Commissioner Gary Griffith yesterday shut down the political campaigning of both the United National Congress (UNC) and the People’s National Movement (PNM) in Carenage, saying they were causing traffic and had no permission.
However, both the PNM and the UNC insisted they had the relevant approvals.
The showdown of sorts between the Commissioner and UNC Diego Martin West candidate was recorded and shared on social media.
Griffith is seen in a heated conversation with UNC candidate Marsha Walker.
Walker holds up a piece of paper, claiming she obtained permission to campaign.
She says they are not causing trouble and this is the third motorcade they were on.
UNC supporters are then seen pointing to a PNM group of supporters also on the road with a music truck.
Griffith directs his officers to check if the PNM motorcade has permission.
Eventually, both the UNC and PNM campaigns are stopped by police.
In a phone interview with the Sunday Express, Griffith said approvals were required from the police and the Licensing Authority.
“What happened (yesterday) because they didn’t have the approval from the Licensing Authority and the Commissioner of Police office... there was traffic that was backed up for several hours all the way back because the UNC was stopping every single car, blocking them and giving them jerseys,” Griffith said.
“Campaigning cannot inconvenience law-abiding citizens because there is an election campaign.
“I am trying to take away the banana republic-type of politics that this country has endured for years.”
He said he was not pinpointing anyone, as both parties were stopped.
“It works both ways because the PNM had a truck with people in the middle of the road waving flags, no permission from the police.
“One of these persons could have been killed because there was no police support because we are not aware of it,” he said.
Griffith said once the police are aware, they would provide all the support and security.
“If you do not do that, I will be forced to shut you down,” he said.
He appealed to all political parties to educate their candidates on the process to obtain permission. In a statement earlier yesterday, he said it was “rather unfortunate that a UNC candidate became very aggressive, confrontational and hostile towards the police in Carenage, saying she had a receipt for such permission”.
Walker told the Sunday Express she was not hostile.
“In fact, there is a video that someone just showed me, where you clearly hear me telling people to calm down. Gary disregarded my receipt. And shouted in his usual tone. In fact, I even asked him not to shout to the other people, and he said stop telling me how to do my job and to look in a mirror,” she said.
Asked about the traffic, she replied: “Yes, there was traffic, but there is always traffic in Carenage, and honestly this is not something unusual during election time.”
Walker provided the Sunday Express with communication she had with WPC Roach of the St James Police Station.
It appeared to be a quotation for what the cost of police extra duty would be, and an invoice from First Citizens for payment.
“Gary said I did not get permission from him. That’s what he said was the problem. And that’s so unfortunate because the officers have been great the last two motorcades. I have no issue with the Commissioner doing his job. All I ask is that it’s done fairly and consistently,” she said.
PNM Diego Martin West constituency chairman Robert Cezair said the PNM had permission for its motorcade.
“We would have had permission from the Divisional Commander of Western Division Mr Thompson to be on the road, and what would have happened is that in going into the Lanse Mitan area there was some engagement with the UNC people in that vicinity,” he said.
“We would have had our people transported to that area, we would have had our people exit the transport and walk so as to not create any traffic disturbance,” he added.
He said it was the UNC people creating traffic and challenges.
“We were told by the Commissioner to close off which we did,” he said. He said they also had permission for the truck and were not in any way trying to create any traffic.