TWO incidents which occurred at the weekend point to the need for reaffirmation of the fact that there is no place for violence and misbehaviour of any sort in the election campaign now in full swing.
In one instance, a candidate for the Movement for Social Justice reported on how she was physically manhandled by a man who purported to be a supporter of another party. She said the man grabbed her by the arm and accused her and her party of seeking to destroy his party and its chances of winning the election. This was in an area in South Oropouche, and the candidate reported being “sort of disoriented” by the incident. Instead, she said she made a report to the police, but asked that the offender merely be warned. She asked that no harsher action be taken against him.
In the other case, a billboard and other election paraphernalia related to the UNC candidate for St Joseph were destroyed. The billboard was fire-bombed, and several banners physically destroyed. The candidate, also in this case, asked his supporters not to seek any kind of retaliation for this offending behaviour.
Such behaviours emerge as a deeply deplorable throw-back to election-related activity decades ago, in an era during which our politics was much less convivial, and in which parties and their supporters took things on much more personal levels. We have come a tremendously long way from those days, since the earliest period of our post-colonial past, and in the development of our proud history of free, fair and well executed elections and the campaigns which allowed for their conduct.
What may be in evidence as revealed in both incidents, one in a part of the deep south, and the other in an area in the east-west corridor, is the sense of anxiety over the August 10 election result.
While such anxiety is understandable, it is no excuse for intolerance, for intimidatory tactics and for strong-arming methods by party supporters. The Commissioner of Police, at a news conference yesterday, said it was his intention to help make this the safest election in our history. He was speaking in the aftermath of having shut down two motorcades in the north-western peninsula on Sunday, which were said to have been causing traffic congestion.
The commissioner’s sentiments, and his actions on Sunday are commendable, as he sought to ensure that such activities conform to the rules, as well as to the strictures in force concerning the Covid-19 requirements for public gatherings. But the question of safety in the conduct of our elections is a matter of long-established record. It is one for which as a society we are all justly proud.
Incidents such as those which have been reported, in Oropouche and St Joseph, are totally out of national character, and have no place in the conduct of our election campaigns.
As political parties, and as individual supporters, we must insist that this image not be tarnished in the least.