PORT OF SPAIN –– Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) communications manager Dominic Hinds says reports of text messages and emails sent to voters on election day are a matter for the police as the EBC could do nothing about it.
As early as 6 a.m., constituents of Caroni Central received a text message encouraging them to vote for United National Congress (UNC) candidate Bhoe Tewarie.
By noon, a message from “Team Kamla” encouraged voters to head to the polls, without naming a specific candidate or party to vote for.
While citizens, including politicians have expressed outrage at what seems to be a breach of the law, which makes it an offence to canvass votes on election day, the EBC said it could do nothing about it.
“With regards to texting and material on social media, there’s no law with respect to that,” said Hinds in an interview. “We asked people to be responsible with their actions and to desist from electioneering on election day.”
Hinds, who said the text message could be considered canvassing, advised citizens to report the text messages to the police.
Caroni East constituents have already reported the incident to police, who advised that they were investigating the matter.
Hinds said the EBC had received no additional reports.
In a brief interview yesterday, Tewarie said he had heard about the text messages, but denied being the source.
“I heard about the texts, I didn’t get one myself but I know people have gotten texts, I know that.
“The text did not come from me. I do not know where they came from.
“My campaign manager is with me right now, we are going from polling division to polling division, and it was not sent from my campaign.”
Tewarie said he was not very concerned about the texts because he didn’t know anything about them
“This is the age of technology and people do all kinds of things. It could be mischief, sabotage, an overenthusiastic supporter, I dont know, but it did come to my attention pretty early this morning,” he said.
People’s National Party (PNM) general secretary Ashton Ford has called for an investigation into the alleged election day offence.
Speaking at a press conference at Baliser House this morning, Ford presented a copy of an electronic message allegedly sent to the cellphones of voters via Whatsapp, shortly after polls opened around 6 a.m.
The message which allegedly cites Tewarie as the sender states: “Vote today for Dr Bhoe Tewarie in Caroni Central and after you vote, your Prime Minister will be Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Every vote counts for the Rising Sun.”
Stating that the issue was an offence under the Representation of the People Act, Ford said the party immediately reported it to both the Election and Boundaries Commission and the Commissioner of Police.
“The PNM is very disturbed by this development which is contrary to the rule of law, fair play, and free, fair elections. This is an abuse,” Ford said.
Asked if the PNM had any proof linking Tewarie to the message, Ford said, “His name is on it, that is good enough for me at this time.”
Pressed on whether he would apologise to Tewarie if he is eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, Ford said, “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”
In addition to the issue with Tewarie, Ford also claimed that the PNM had received reports from members of the protective and essential services classed as special voters who were unable to vote despite the EBC extending their deadline for voting to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Ford could not give an explaination for the issue affecting the special voters.