by Latoya Burnham and Donna Sealy
Electoral officials are serving notice that some of the conduct exhibited in the February 21 election will be tolerated next time around.
In particular, Chairman of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Owen Estwick, saiod the posters still stuck to poles and other locales around the island, which should have been down before polling day, will be dealt with.
Across Barbados today, 12 days since election day, several posters for candidates and even now elected MPs still adorn many utilities poles for both the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party.
Asked about relevant legislation in this regard, Estwick confirmed that there has been some contravention, calling it a “flagrant breach” of the Election Offences and Controversies Act.
Quoting Section 13(1), the chairman said: “No person shall furnish or supply any public address, apparatus, loud speakers, bunting, ensign, banner, standard or set of colours or any flag to any person with intent that it should be carried, worn or used on polling day within a constituency for which an election is being held, or on any motorcar or other vehicle or otherwise as political propaganda, and no person shall on polling day, carry, wear or use within such constituency any public address or apparatus, loud speakers, bunting, ensign, banner, standard or set of colours or flag or any motor or other vehicle, otherwise as political propaganda.”
Estwick explained: “I can tell you that Section 13(1) and (2), expressly forbids, and you will probably notice that there are still a lot of things still up, but the particular offence would have been on polling day. That’s the operative thing here. They should have come down ever since; they should have been down as of midnight before polling day.
“So it is a flagrant breach of the Election Offences and Controversies Act and it is one of the things we will have to look at when we next meet,” he told Barbados TODAY.
During the February 21 election campaign, several people were temporarily employed to put up and take down posters. The amount of money paid varied from candidate to candidate on both sides of the political divide with some of them selling out $1,000, others $300 for a particular area and others for a certain amount.
While a check by this newspaper showed that no one was given less than $300 however, one MP called for a banning of such paraphernalia.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY St. Lucy MP Denis Kellman, who faced the electorate for the fifth time alleged that during the three-week campaign some of his posters were ripped down by people in his opponents’ camp.
He said because of their actions there were a few of his posters left but it was not something that he worried about.
“If people are going to get people to pull them down we should get rid of them. If people are going to use staples to put them in poles when they shouldn’t, then we shouldn’t put them up. We could just use billboards.
“Our people are too educated to be going for that. Our people don’t need to see a poster with a picture [of a candidate] up to know who to vote for. We brought free secondary education to change that,” Kellman said.
Some of the 68 candidates said the majority of their posters were taken down by midnight before election day, others said they knew their posters were still up and would be taken down soon. While others said posters inside the 100 yard line near the polling centres were definitely taken down before voting started at 6 a.m. and pointed out their opponents’ were still on poles and trees.
Chairman Estwick also addressed a number of other matters which he said had come to the attention of the EBC, but with which, for lack of manpower as well as evidence they could not proceed.
He spoke to posters and billboards that were damaged during the campaigning period; the congregation of people within and outside of the 100 yard barrier to polling stations among other activities with which they were not pleased.
The act as well, he outlined, spoke to penalties for breaches of conduct: “This may be where we need to put some teeth in the legislation… Section 16(3) says that any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $500 or imprisonment for six months.”
Stating that he too was concerned about the behaviours, Estwick guaranteed he would do whatever was necessary to ensure some of these actions did not become the norm for election conduct in Barbados.
“You can rest assured that we have noticed it and are offended by the blatant disregard for the law and that we will look to see how we can ensure these things are not repeated. I can’t tell you how many candidates on the one side or the other side offended because we did not have the capabilities of going around and policing all the infractions of the law.” [email protected]; [email protected]