[UPDATED] Voting slow, steady in Tunapuna/Piarco

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The hearing-impaired members of the Boneo family make the “love” sign after voting at the Tunapuna RC School on Monday. – Anisto Alves

Despite a few minor hiccups, voting was slow and steady in the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation on Monday morning. Both voters and candidates said the process went smoothly.

Many voters said they came out to vote for change in their communities and their countries. They said it was important to exercise their right to vote.

At the Five Rivers Hindu Primary School, security guards closed the gate to traffic, as during the last election, cars had been hit in the car park. Voters lined up as early as 5.30 and were let into the station promptly at 6 am.

Austin Jack Warner, shows off his voting finger after casting his ballot in the Local Government Election at the Five Rivers Hindu Primary School, Arouca, on Monday. – Anisto Alves

Former ILP leader Jack Warner said voting went smoothly for him.

He said the campaign was a national one.

“It’s a reflection on the work, or lack of it, of the PM. This, for me, is a rehearsal for the (general) election in 2025, and regardless of what happens here, good, bad, or indifferent, will determine how this country is governed and run, and I hope the people will be able to get across the message that the time for change is now, and enough is enough.”

Warner said his role in politics is to remove the PNM and Dr Rowley and give the country a chance to breathe.

Five Rivers resident Marie-Ann Ramsahai said voting went smoothly at 6 am.

“As a young person, I believe it’s a blessing to have the ability to vote. I voted for the betterment of my country as a young person living here.”

Rampersad Maharaj, also of Five Rivers, said he came out to vote for change.

“This community has a lot of problems with roads and flooding and things like that, so we need to get a change.”

At the Five Rivers Secondary School, Francis Davis said it was important to vote because “it’s not only our rights, but if you have a grievance, we have the power. It’s not about the politics, it’s about what you can do for your community. Regardless of who you are, what leadership we’re under, it’s about what you could do for the people, because you’re there to represent the people, then your party.”

At the St Mary’s Anglican Primary School, Kavida Ramdin said the process was smooth. She said she came out to vote because change was needed.

PNM co-ordinator for the corporation Noel Garcia said there had been no major incidents in the area up to 10 am.

“A number of people have turned out, and we’re expecting voting will pick up as the day goes on.

“Things are going smoothly. Tunapuna/Piarco stretches from Blanchisseuse in the north to Wallerfield in the east to Warrenville in the west, and to Maracas St Joseph. It’s the largest corporation.”

However, a group of people leaving the El Dorado West Secondary School were overheard saying one woman had gone to vote, but her name had been removed from the electoral roll. They said they were not voting for anyone today.

They declined to speak to Newsday further.

Garcia said the woman had registered to work with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and so her name was put on the list of special voters, though as it turned out, she was not called to work on election day.

“Once you’re a special voter, your name is crossed out to prevent people from voting twice.

“My advice is that she needs to contact the EBC.

“It’s a simple misunderstanding on her part. If you’re to work for the EBC, you’re supposed to check and see if you’re on the special voters list, and once you are, you will not be able to vote.

“I think it will be sorted out.”

St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen said she had seen increased energy at polling stations in her constituency, which could translate to an increased voter turnout.

“In St Augustine constituency, we expect victory for our (the UNC’s) three returning councillors. I am concerned (about) several reports of voter and candidate intimidation by the PNM. For instance, in Edinburgh 500, one of our candidates was accosted by a PNM activist, and we find that behaviour to be irresponsible on the part of the PNM. We find it is important for political parties to give their supporters directives in terms of responsible behaviour on election day.”

She said in the Sangre Grande region, there were reports of the PNM canvassing directly outside the polling stations. She said this was reported to the polling officer, who removed the person, but someone else replaced them. She said she hoped this would not affect the outcome of the election.

Ameen said she saw an increased buzz at the Carapo RC School, where she voted.She said her party had received reports of of instances of voter intimidation by PNM activists, and these had been reported to their lawyers and the EBC.

The El Dorado West Secondary School was the busiest location Newsday visited, with a steady stream of voters.

UNC Candidate for Caura/Paradise/Tacarigua, Sookdeo Prakash Bharath, at the EL Dorado Secondary School on Monday. – Anisto Alves

UNC candidate for Caura/Paradise/Tacarigua Sookdeo Prakash Barath said some voters were confused, as the EBC had moved their regular polling station from the El Dorado East Secondary School. He said there were other complaints by the voters.

“People who normally walk to El Dorado East would now have to take transport to come up here. It’s causing some inconvenience to our voters. We’re hoping during the course of the day to pick it up.

“We had two complaints this morning. One was at the St Mary’s Children’s Home, where our voters were telling us the stamp wasn’t stamping properly. I don’t know how that will affect the end result.

“We also received a complaint of a campaign manager from the other side removing a box from a polling station. We passed that on to the lawyers.”

Voter Dave Belgrave said the experience went smoothly and quickly. He said he came out to vote because it was important to exercise his voting franchise.

PNM canidate for Macoya Trincity Josiah Austin after he voted at the Arouca Anglican School on Monday. – Anisto Alves

PNM candidate for Macoya/Trincity Josiah Austin said voting went smoothly in his district and he had received no complaints from voters. Newsday caught up with him as he voted at the Arouca Anglican Primary School.

“I’d really like (to commend) the EBCfor conducting a smooth process, no hiccups. There was a little change in the pattern, as normally we’d expect a higher voter turnout in the morning, but we saw a higher turnout at lunchtime. We’re at approximately 15 per cent voter turnout as at midday, so we’re seeing that change in pattern and we’d expect a greater turnout in the evening for Macoya/Trincity.”

He said he was feeling confident, as the electoral district was a closely knit one.

“We understand the needs of the district and I believe the voters will turn out and vote resoundingly for myself and make the right choice.”

At the Tunapuna Girls’ RC School, a steady flow of voters was seen coming and going.

Hemraj Kanhai from Tunapuna said the process was very smooth. He said drastic change was needed as the country was going down. He said he had encouraged unemployed people to vote and had had a positive response.

Curtis Boneo, who brought his three hearing-impaired children to vote, said they thought it was important to exercise their right to do so.

“We come from the Auzonville/Tunapuna district. I came with my children Jamel and Jameel Boneo and Maya Joseph, and we came to do what we’re supposed to do as citizens of TT and represent, because it’s our right and they can’t stop us.

“You have to do the right thing and vote, because when you don’t vote, you don’t have a say.”

He said his family experienced no issues, and they were the ones that actually showed him how to go on the EBC’s website to see where his polling station was, as he didn’t get his polling card.

Miguel from Tunapuna said he came out to vote so he could see change in his community.

“We need improvement in the roads. Everywhere you turn it have a pothole. Simple things like where you can put your garbage, getting a bin instead of putting it in the road. We have a set of leaks in the area that haven’t been fixed for years. Giving the youths work so they don’t go into gangs, just the betterment of the community.”

PNM candidate for Auzonville/Tunapuna John Boyd Briggs said voting had been uneventful for himself and voters in the district. He said voting had been slow at Tunapuna Secondary School, where he went to vote.

“Tunapuna was very quiet this morning around 10 am. The agents at other locations said there was a slow but steady trickle. I went to Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, where there was a little more traffic. The busiest one was El Dorado West Secondary.

“I do expect more people to turn up after lunch.”

A first-time candidate, Briggs said the campaign had been an enlightening experience.

“It has taught me a lot about accountability and transparency. For me, this campaign has been interesting, fast-paced, but not tiring. In walking through Tunapuna Central, I’ve realised people want basic infrastructural work, like roads and drains. I’m also looking forward to implementing more youth-focused programmes in the area.”

UNC canidate for Valsayn St Joseph, Seema Ramcharan-Augustine, speaks to Newsday after casting her vote on Monday. – Anisto Alves

UNC candidate for Valsayn/St Joseph Seema Ramcharan-Augustine said voting went smoothly.

“I went very early so there wasn’t much of a crowd. I was surprised, by 11 am today, over 1,200 people had voted in Valsayn/St Joseph. People have been turning up.

“I’m very confident that I will win by a landslide.

“I expect a lot more people will turn out who don’t normally turn out for an election, and I appreciate their support.”