Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Roderick P. Harris
It is with a heavy heart that I pen this letter. Of late, I am unable to recognise my beloved country. Piece by piece, bit by bit the fundamental rights and freedoms that have been fought for by our forefathers are being taken away from us in a most brutish and offensive way.
How can my fair land be having a General Election in two days with over 5 600 people in isolation with COVID-19, and are being barred from voting? So that in this the year of our Lord 2022 there are Bajan citizens who have gotten their right to vote taken away.
How can this be? How can this be allowed? How can it be rationalised? How can it sit well with the powers that be? How can those in authority inflict such upon our people? By Wednesday, based on the current trend, there will be over 6 000 people unable to vote.
Are we really in this together? From the time this election was called there has been something off about it. Not only has it been called way before it is constitutionally due, but everything that has happened in the days after has not sat well with many.
Days after it was called the head of the COVID Monitoring Unit, not the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC), announced that COVID-19 positive patients would not be able to vote.
How strange that such an announcement would come from a Government-appointed COVID Unit head and not the organisation that handles all things related to elections – |the EBC. Then the EBC came out and confirmed that COVID-19 patients could not vote and explained that it would put undue pressure on electoral officers. They fear they may catch COVID-19, said chairman Leslie Haynes. But the EBC had time to put some options on the table and for whatever reason they did not.
In this age of technology where BCC, UWI and SJPI conduct online exams, certainly plans could have been put in place for these voters to vote remotely.
Voting could have been done at the facilities themselves with some assistance from health officials. If the Government and EBC wanted it done it would have been done.
After all, we became Republic in the blink of an eye.
Recently, we read reports in your media about a woman who has been dead for 21 years who was sent correspondence from the EBC to vote. There have also been reports where one person is registered to vote two different places with two different ID numbers.
The EBC vowed to clean up, but should the clean up not have taken place before this all-important General Election? Up to the writing of this, the Voters’ List in many constituencies still had not been provided by EBC.
There are first-time voters who have not received any correspondence from the
EBC as it relates to the location of their polling station.
No wonder then that the talk on the streets is that this situation might ensure a low voter turnout that will benefit the incumbent. Could this be though? Or is this simply idle talk? Has my fair land reached a stage where a free and fair election is in doubt?
Is this really who we are? Is this why we are being bombarded with google ads at every turn? Is this why thousands of us have received text messages to our cell phones instructing who we should vote for? I am also keen to know whether any international, CARICOM or Commonwealth election watch groups will be on hand to oversee this process? Will there be any independent group of observers here? I have heard no mention of such.
while I know our leader enjoys an international profile, it is cliché to say that “the world is watching”, I am more concern about the fact that Barbadians are watching, especially those 5 600 plus who have been deprived of what is rightfully and legally theirs.