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Friday 6 December 2019
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Callender denies ‘hijacking’ PNM Council

Facebook post alleges 'autocratic' decision making

PNM Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender -
PNM Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender -

People's National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council Chairman Stanford Callender has denied claims that he and political leader Kelvin Charles are trying to "hijack" the party's January 19, 2020, internal election.

"I don't know about that. That chairman is not in the business of hijacking anything," he declared on November 22 during a news conference at the Tobago Council's headquarters in Scarborough.

The news conference was held in the wake of a Facebook post in which some people, believed to be party members, claimed voter suppression tactics are being used by Charles and Callender to prevent voters from exercising their right to vote in the upcoming election.

In the post, the alleged members claimed that at a meeting on November 20, "the Stanford Callender-controlled team was not receptive to the ideas and suggestions emanating from the floor."

They also expressed concerns about the "autocratic nature with which decisions are made and the reasons given for such decisions."

The post also cited sources as saying there have been "closed door meetings" with chairman of the party's elections supervisory committee Alvin Pascal.

The number of polling stations in the upcoming election, the post noted, has also been "strategically reduced to make it extremely difficult for voters to get to the polls on polling day."

Regarding the latter issue, Callender recalled there were only two polling stations in Tobago – one in the east and the other in the west – during the national election for party officers in 2014.

"So, each constituency was assigned a polling station. That was the practice...the then council accepted a recommendation to have a polling station in every electoral district.

"But we discovered there were several issues in terms of managing those polling stations because we have to understand the party is not the EBC (Elections and Boundaries Commission). It does not have the resources to hire staff to oversee the operations."

He said in last leadership election in 2016, there were only two polling stations in Tobago, at Calder Hall and Scarborough Secondary.

"Having understood the challenges that some people had, we said we would be a bit more flexible. We cannot go back to that unmanageable system because we don't have the resources to manage those.

"In the final analysis, the executive agreed to put two in the east and two in the west, instead of having one in the east and one in the west."

In the east and north-east, the polling stations will be located at Belle Garden Multi-Purpose Facility and Mason Hall Government Primary School.

The polling station at Belle Garden Multi-Purpose Facility caters to members in the electoral districts of Bacolet/Mt St George, Goodwood/Belle Garden, Roxborough/Delaford and Speyside/Charlotteville while the Mason Hall Government School polling station covers the communities of Scarborough/Calder Hall, Moriah/Providence/Mason Hall and Castara/Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi and Bloody Bay.

In the west, voters will be able to cast their ballots at Bethesda Multi-Purpose Facility, which encompasses Plymouth/Golden Lane, Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden and Bethel/Mt Irvine.

Members in the electoral districts of Canaan/Bon Accord, Lambeau/Signal Hill and Buccoo/Mt Pleasant will also be able to vote at the Lowlands Multi-Purpose Facility.

Callender said the party's executive decided the deadline date for new members would be December 20 while the cut-off date for existing members of the council to pay their outstanding dues is December 31.

"It is our intention to have a preliminary list of electors prepared by January 6, 2020 and a final list by January 13, 2020."

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