United National Congress (UNC) San Fernando West candidate Sean Sobers’ sub-office in Gulf View was yesterday vandalised with campaign posters and banners being torn and removed.
Sobers told the Express the vandalism, which he considers an open attack on the campaign, was not an isolated incident. Many of the party’s signage and posters have been removed, defaced or damaged in the past two weeks, he said. However, yesterday’s attack was the first of its kind.
“This is part of a series of vandalisms that has been ongoing for the last week. A lot of the banners throughout the constituency were torn down. This is the first open attack and criminal action against one of our sub-offices.
“We are going to report the matter to the TTPS (T&T Police Service) because I am very fearful for the safety of the volunteers who work out of that office. As a young person getting into politics, this is not something that I would ever endorse. It is really shocking,” he said.
The UNC’s small container office, which is being temporarily used by volunteers, is located on the premises of a resident. UNC zoning officer Villiana Ramoutarsingh was contacted by this resident yesterday and informed that several of the posters were torn and left on the grounds.
“This morning, I got to the sub-office and the entire front was lined with banners to give us some privacy within the office. This morning, they took down and ripped down everything and went with the banners this time; they went with the banners, broke off the wood and left. At 6.a.m.
“I got a message from the residents’ group that they suspect the banners were torn down; they could see them on the ground. When I got to the office, I could not believe what I saw,” she said.
Ramoutarsingh said approximately 30 similar incidents have occurred. “It is a constant, ongoing set of vandalisms. Everyday so far, they have taken down at least 23 of our banners. It is extremely sickening. I am really tired of this now. We lost about 23 banners, the small ones that are on tie.
“This time, there were five that covered the front of the whole property, about 100 feet long. I would say about 30 times because the banners at TML were damaged this morning as well. I would say they could be replaced, but at this late stage, I’m not sure if it makes any sense.
“On election day, it would have given us some privacy. I am extremely upset about it. It costs money and time and effort, and it’s so close to elections. We were targeted and it shows that there is some desperation among the vandals with regard to this candidate. I didn’t hear of anything happening to any other party. We would not want to retaliate any party in that manner because that is not good politics,” she said.
She added: “What I would have liked is for the opposing candidates to have sent a message to their supporters that this kind of vandalism is wrong and should not be condoned.”
Sobers said political expression remains part of the democratic process. He however noted members of the current administration have yet to condemn such actions against UNC candidates, with similar incidents having happened in Chaguanas East and Toco/Sangre Grande.
He feels the events were politically motivated, adding such actions were not condoned by his campaign against any other party or politician.
“At the end of the day, elections in Trinidad and Tobago is a democratic process. It is supposed to be free and fair, and everyone has the right to express themselves politically.
“I would want to enquire because this has been happening for some time, and not just in San Fernando. It has happened to Mayor Mohit in Chaguanas and in Toco/Sangre Grande to our candidate there. I am not hearing anybody from the Government condemning the actions of these vandals.
“I am not hearing anything from them, but they are quick to say things about the UNC. This is an open attack. I suspect it was politically motivated. I don’t have any evidence to the contrary. Why else would it be happening; we are in that season and elections are on Monday.
“What I want the public to be aware of is that we have never taken and we will never endorse anyone taking actions like this against any political party. This is not what we were about,” he said.
Contacted for comment, PNM candidate for San Fernando West Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said all acts of vandalism are to be condemned.
“Any vandalism is to be condemned. I too am awaiting Sobers’ condemnation of all my signage and posters, etc. Whilst I condemn this behaviour, I would not put it past my opponents to have done this to themselves, the same way they have hung up a sign saying another vandalised poster,” said Al-Rawi.
The PNM’s candidate for Pointe-a-Pierre, Daniel Dookie, said his campaign was also the victim of vandals, with buntings and posters being ripped down and graffiti being smeared in parts of the constituency.
He said: “I am very disappointed in their actions and the hanging of their banners and flags on T&TEC poles. However, I am not surprised as I know they are running scared.”