February 5, 2010
Minister: Stop stalking Electoral Office staff

Anyone caught stalking the staff of the Electoral Office or lurking in the vicinity of the office will feel the full brunt of the Law.{{more}}

René Baptiste, Minister with responsibility for Electoral Matters, made this warning in the wake of complaints from the electoral office staff in the aftermath of the November 25, 2009, Referendum on the Constitution.

Baptiste, at the January 19, 2010, sitting of Parliament, disclosed that she intends to file a report to the Minister of National Security notifying him that electoral officers were put under surveillance by persons other than security forces during the referendum.

“Electoral staff was being watched, in simpler language: ‘maco’, when they came out from the electoral office with materials and the Supervisor of Elections is concerned,” said Baptiste.

“Let me make it clear. As long as I have responsibility for the Electoral Office, I will ensure that our security forces become a little more visible in the protection of the Supervisor and the Electoral Office, and anyone other than

stray dogs in Kingstown seen outside the electoral office or in the vicinity of the electoral office, so much to make the staff feel unsafe,” will be prosecuted, Baptiste warned.

The warning was issued during the Minister’s response to a two part question posed by Dr. Godwin Friday, Area Representative for the Northern Grenadines.

Friday inquired whether the Minister of Electoral Matters had undertaken a review of the conduct of the November 25, 2009, Referendum and whether she was satisfied with the manner in which it was conducted.

Voicing another concern, Baptiste complained that during the referendum, a member of Parliament engaged in roughing up presiding officers, “telling them, I quote ‘know your damn place, shut up, stay out of this, I am not speaking to you.”

“Let me declare, Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand what could make any individual, especially if you are in the House or seeking to be in this honourable House, act with such disrespect and dishonour,” said Baptiste, adding the House is not the staircase to Heaven.

Reports on the referendum charged that representatives of the ‘Vote No Campaign’ sought to force inspection of the ballot boxes and ballot papers.

“I can find no legal or other authority upon which this request is made. Totally, in my view, [it’s] unwarranted,” said Baptiste.

Baptiste said persons went as far as marking a ballot box.

“I understand that there was some scaremongering relating to the ballot boxes. And I was very concerned,” said Baptiste. She said one individual identified for doing so has sent an e-mail to the Supervisor of Elections “apologizing for having participated in some mischief.”

Baptiste used the opportunity to laud Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb, Supervisor of Elections, and her department for modernising the electoral system.

When contacted about the concerns expressed earlier by Baptiste, Findlay-Scrubb declined to comment. She, however, noted that the police have dealt with the matter adequately and she would not like to comment on it.

Findlay-Scrubb also declined to comment on the compliments that she and the Electoral Office received from the Organization of American States Monitoring Team for the handling of the referendum.

She said this is because she is awaiting two independent reports that will be submitted soon; one from CARICOM and the other from the OECS. She said a report has already been submitted by the National Consultative and Monitoring Mechanism (NCMM).

“While this one gives us good marks, I really would not want to rejoice too soon. I would like to see what the others have to say,” commented Findlay-Scrubb.