While Presidential Advisor Odinga Lumumba is still to be charged over a polling day incident during which a presiding officer was injured, elections watchdog the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) is calling for rules for parties’ operatives to be clearly outlined and enforced.
“Acts of violence, personal character attacks, name calling, vulgarity, slander, and invocation of race as a criterion for choosing leaders all surfaced in the 2011 elections campaign… There is need for greater clarity and a precise set of rules governing the conduct of party candidates and supporters on election day, with clear penalties, and monitoring and enforcement by the proposed Elections Protection Bureau,” the EAB has said in a report on recommendations based on lessons learned from polls since 1992.
In the report, the EAB noted that the “majority of acts of violence or intimidation and mobbing of polling stations were perpetrated by party supporters, some of whom were observed operating as organised groups.”
Detailing the incident which occurred with Lumumba at a South Ruimveldt polling station, where it was stated that he had entered the polling station and an argument ensued between him and the presiding officer, the EAB said: “A PPP/C candidate physically assaulted the Presiding Officer and in the course of the incident violently snatched the EAB’s observer’s phone and threw it against a wall.” The EAB observer was at the time recording the incident on her phone.
Although Lumumba had publically acknowledged that he had pushed the presiding officer, Onika Beckles, and offered compensation for the cell phone of the EAB observer, police have not brought charges against him.
Beckles’ attorney, Nigel Hughes, had informed Stabroek News that he had read in the press last December that charges were recommended but neither he nor his client had heard anything from the police since then. According to Hughes, though he is not surprised at the police’s lack of attention to the case, he expected investigators to pursue the matter.
In addition, the EAB said there were also instances of violations of the law when representatives of the PPP/C and APNU were observed “making repeated visits to their polling agents and exchanging information on which voters had already voted and some of them, by popping in an out all day long, generally made a mockery of the law, which provides for Candidates to visit their polling agents for no more than ten consecutive minutes at a time.”
As a result, the EAB said that the 200 yard safe zone barrier around polling stations should be extended to 500 yards, to help protect voters from overall intimidation and coercion in voting.