THE United National Congress (UNC), in a 13-page letter to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), is asking that it not be made mandatory for voters to wear face masks on August 10.
The letter – dated July 28 – written by the party’s chairman Peter Kanhai, said the EBC initially met with its members on July 1 and a follow-up meeting is expected on July 31.
Kanhai said “new matters of concern” have arisen since the first meeting, and there remain “many unanswered questions and troubling issues that have to be addressed.
Under a "summary of main concerns," Kanhai said, “Free and unfettered access by electors to polling stations to exercise their lawful right to vote, despite any requirement which may be arbitrarily imposed by the government between now and polling day for the wearing of masks in public places.”
He continued, “The UNC does not object to the optional wearing of masks at polling stations, but this should not be a mandatory requirement. If masks are recommended to be worn, the government should supply an adequate supply of masks at every polling station for the use of every elector.”
Recently, the Health Ministry and the EBC said voters should wear masks and will be required to sanitise their hands both before and after casting their ballot.
Also in the letter, Kanhai urged the EBC to be impartial and to treat all stakeholders equally, asking that the “events of polling day 2015” not be repeated. He said the party wants assurance that “any extension of polling hours would be pursuant only to the election rules which allow extensions only in cases of riots or open violence and not because of flooding or inclement weather.”
It also included an aide-memoire by the party's general secretary Davendranath Tancoo.
Other concerns included the preparedness and training of returning officers and claims of non-nationals trying to register to vote.
“The revised list of electors has already been posted and the law, while allowing deletions, does not allow any additions to that list. The EBC must publicly account to the population as to whether it is continuing to conduct electoral registration after posting the revised list of electors.”
He said while the EBC is independent, it is not infallible or “unaccountable to the population.
“The current absence of clear, simultaneous and public channels of communication to all stakeholders breeds suspicion and the appearance of the EBC and its officials being partisan and biased.”
He continued, “It would appear that the EBC shies away from written correspondence. The EBC website, under ‘Contact Us’ amazingly does not contain any e-mail addresses, even though the ‘Ask the EBC’ section of the website invites readers to send an e-mail requesting any information on any matter of concern relating to election management issues.”
He also accused some of the returning officers of refusing to validate the party’s candidates – in writing – on nomination day. He said it was done when candidates did not provide letters of nomination and acceptance under the party’s letterhead.
“Those returning officers were simply ignorant of the legal scope of their duties when certifying nomination papers. They left our candidates in doubt as to whether their forms would have been deemed valid.”
He described it as abuse, adding that the officers have “no clue” about the law.
He said he is expecting a written response to all concerns addressed in his letter by July 30.