...‘ILP conspiracy to buy votes with phones, cash’
There is a “conspiracy” on the part of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) to pay voters as much as $500 for their vote after they show a photograph of the ballot paper taken with a cellphone.
This allegation was made yesterday by Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Congress of the People (COP) deputy leader Lincoln Douglas at a news conference at COP Flagship House, Broome Street, St Clair.
Moonilal claims to have “proof” votes for money were being solicited for today’s local government elections by ILP agents in Central and North (Chaguanas and Sangre Grande) Trinidad, and this can be verified “through several sources”.
Moonilal made reference to an Express article which stated Eastern Commercial Lands Ltd, trading as Tru Valu, was investigating the sale of $25,000 in phone cards to the ILP on October 4.
“It has come to our attention and we have verified with several sources that these phone cards have been purchased with the expressed intention of being used as a device for the procurement of votes.”
Moonilal claimed further that cellphones were imported and will be given to voters, who will in turn secretly take them into the voting area, take a picture of their vote and then be paid $200 to $500 after they show “proof” of which party they voted for.
“This is not one person telling us, but several persons who themselves have been approached to participate in this drive,” claimed Moonilal.
“We believe this is undemocratic and speaks to the undermining of the electoral process. It speaks to undermining the fair and free election that we intend to hold and undermines terribly our democracy and seeks to overthrow the will of the people,” he added.
The People’s Partnership, he said, was not taking this lightly and called on all voters to be vigilant and for the relevant authorities to act.
Moonilal claimed other businesses have indicated they have sold large quantities of phone cards in an “unusual and suspicious” way.
He said nothing was wrong with buying phone cards, but using them to bribe voters was illegal.
Moonilal said he received information on this allegation since last Wednesday but was not in a position to make any public disclosure, as “we took our time to investigate”.
Ramlogan spelled out the offences listed under the Representation of the People’s Act against bribing voters and accepting bribes.
He noted that Section 91 makes it an offence to influence voters within 100 yards of a polling station on polling day.
Anyone who contravenes that section is liable to a summary conviction and a fine of $7,500 or to imprisonment for three months.
Ramlogan added bribes can take the form of food, drink, loans and contracts.
He further noted Section 97, which states this was a breach.
Section 97 (2) states a person is guilty of treating who corruptly by himself or by any other person on his behalf, either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing any food, drink, entertainment or provision to or for any person.
Ramlogan said electors who accept bribes are also culpable. He pointed out that Section 101 stated any illegal practice will be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $15,000 or six months’ imprisonment.
Douglas appealed to voters to be vigilant and not be swayed by gifts.
“We are asking all our people of Trinidad and Tobago to be on guard, to not allow themselves to be corrupted by any monies, food, drink or anything,” he said.