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Chief Secretary hopefuls confident

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

The three men vying to become Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for the next four years cast their votes yesterday and expressed confidence that victory will be theirs.

Incumbent, THA Chief Secretary Orville London was the first vote yesterday morning as he voted at seven o'clock at Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago where he condemned violence during the election campaign.

A Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) supporter was reportedly chopped on Sunday evening in Scarborough.

Said London, "That should be abhorred, it should be condemned. I just want to remind people, it may sound like a platitude, but it's a fact that come tomorrow morning we all have to live here as Tobagonians, the colour of the shirts and the rhetoric will no longer matter,".

He said the People's National Movement (PNM) led a good campaign and was certain it had the support of Tobagonians.

"I think we run a good campaign and it is now up to the people and the process and I have confidence in the people and I have confidence in the process so I believe that the result that we get at the end of the day will be the result the people of Tobago want and therefore there is a feeling of calm that I think will pervade throughout the day," said London.

The PNM, he said, will benefit from a high voter turn-out and given the large crowds at the party's meetings and rallys he was sure that this would be in its favour.

London is contesting the Scarborough/ Calder Hall electoral district.

Just after 8 a.m. political leader of The Platform of Truth (TPT) Hochoy Charles cast his vote at the Golden Lane Community Centre.

This elections, he reiterated, was about Tobago and the people's move to get their own power.

"I am sure that this is not an election for individuals to feel confident, this is a liberation exercise as you know it is a Tobago election it is for the people of Tobago to gain its power, it is for Tobago to either feel confident or not confident and I am sure that the people of Tobago understood our message, they are going to vote for themselves to get away from Trinidad control over Tobago," said Charles.

He pointed out that the TOP and the PNM expended millions in their campaigns and bought out television advertising so the TPT did not get the opportunity to spread its message as wide as it would have liked.

However, he said candidates were on the ground, in the communities urging people to vote for the TPT and Tobago's liberation.

Charles, a former THA chief secretary is contesting the electoral district of Plymouth/Golden Lane.

TOP political leader Ashworth Jack was the last to vote, he arrived at the Mount Grace Community Centre in Mason Hall just after 10 a.m. accompanied by his wife and family members.

Clearly confident of an election victory, Jack shared with the media his plans after becoming chief secretary. The first step he said is healing.

"I am really sad at how polarised we have become and I make this solemn pledge, once I am elected chief secretary, the healing will start immediately, we cannot have an island of 44,000 to 55,000 and it is dispolarised, how do you move forward, how would you get productivity, it is something we have to deal with. This is sad," said Jack.

The polling stations were opened at 6 a.m. sharp and election officers and police were out in their numbers to ensure a smooth process.

By 7 a.m. there was a steady flow at the polling stations and throughout the day people trickled at various voting points to cast their votes.

From the young to the old to the differently abled were all out in their numbers.

At the Methodist Primary Government School a special wooden ramp was erected for the differently-abled to gain access to the station to vote.

At the Bon Accord Government Primary School there was a line up voters who all came out bearing smiles and waiving their inked fingers.

There was a smooth process throughout the day, but there were also reports of election breaches.

The PNM claimed that the TOP was using electronic canvassing to sway voters through an automated voice recording to voters cellphones and land lines.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) confirmed this and issued a release advising people to report this to the police.

"It has come to the attention of the Elections and Boundaries Commission that potential voters are receiving text messages and or phone calls urging them to vote for a particular political party. The Commission wishes to advise that persons receiving such requests while in the precincts of a polling station should report the matter to the police," stated the release.

Although Jack refuted the allegation earlier, the TOP later issued a release accusing the PNM of election propaganda.

"The Tobago Organisation of the People refutes the PNM Election Day propaganda that the party is engaging in telephone canvassing. The TOP has no knowledge of such an activity and has issued no such authorisation. The TOP rejects these blatant attempts by the PNM to interfere with the smooth running of the election by interjecting unsubstantiated and wild allegations," stated the release.

The TOP called on all voters to ignore "these unfortunate attempts to create confusion,".

"Our party reaffirms its commitment to free and fair elections. This last-minute desperate ditch by the PNM to create distractions and sully the name of the TOP will be rejected by the people. The TOP repeats its call to all parties to allow the democratic process to take place as an exercise of the will of the people," stated the release.

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