VOTING got under way on Monday morning in the Public Services Association (PSA) election, after the High Court at 1 am rejected an injunction seeking to stop it owing to concerns about the voters list.
Four presidential candidates agreed problems existed, but differed on how to go forward.
PSA president Watson Duke of the Game Changers slate said issues arising would not change the results. Among his rivals, Curtis Cuffie (Concerned Public Officers) said he had supported court action to stop the election to remedy the concerns, while Oral Saunders (United Public Officers) and Nixon Callendar (Team Sentinel) had concerns but were glad the election was going ahead. The other slate leaders were Ian Murray (Labour Warriors) and Gregory Cova (Premium Value.)
Duke said he was glad polling was under way, and criticised two rival slate leaders (Cuffie and Murray) for supporting the failed injunction.
Speaking to reporters on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, he reckoned any shortcomings were insufficient to alter the outcome.
“I don’t think we’ll have a photo-finish. I think the victory today is one where they will be lost in the dust. We are beating a fast-track. They cannot beat us.”
While he had not heard of some voters being shifted to Princes Town, he had heard of long-term members’ names not being on the voters list.
“I had to ask someone where I’m voting.”
However, he said those were minor irregularities compared to the thousands who had voted.
“I hope and pray this never happens again.”
In office for 12 years, Duke was confident of winning another four-year term.
“People want the Game Changers because they want a leader who does not compromise with politicians. The want someone with a proven track record and they want modernisation of the union.”
Cuffie stood by his support of the failed injunction. “Members must be given the chance to decide their franchise in a very transparent and fair manner. That is why we went to court.”
Talking to reporters outside the Industrial Court, he said that, up to midday, he and another slate had, between them, received complaints from 50 people unable to vote.
“Mayaro, no polling station. Rio Claro, no polling station. Persons in Mayaro and Rio Claro were told to go to Princes Town to vote.
“There is a roving station for those areas (but) nobody can say what is the route (and) when that maxi will be passing.”
Cuffie said when he had visited St Ann’s Hospital and Port of Spain General Hospital, he had seen no polling stations.
He said just before 9 am maxi-taxis had arrived at the hospitals to function as polling stations, but said the PSA general council had never agreed to vehicles serving as fixed polling stations. More so, he said the vehicles did not have a voters list for those stations, but only a general membership list.
“So at present, it’s total chaos and mayhem.”
Cuffie said the election could not be free and fair.
“The situation is very, very serous. There is already a matter filed before the court to deal with it.”
Saunders told reporters, “This is a great day for democracy, in spite of hiccups public officers experienced. We are satisfied at least we have been able to vote.” He said before 7 am he had received complaints, including the use of maxi-taxis for polling.
“It is very unusual to many public officers to be using a vehicle as opposed to a physical building (as polling stations.)”
He said democracy was never easy.
“Up to this morning there were still attempts to stop the election. I thank God those attempts were futile, in spite of the shortcomings.”
Saunders urged public servants to vote.
“This is your opportunity to show the incumbents your dissatisfaction. Please come out and vote. Make your decision count. We need a change.”
He vowed to unify the PSA. “We’ll fight for job stability. We’ll fight for the closing of the outstanding negotiating periods. We’ll definitely begin the rebuilding exercise within the PSA.”
Callendar met reporters at the Ministry of Works and Transport in Port of Spain. “Yes there are some teething problems this morning as in all elections but Sentinel is out here.
“It is a good day to take part in a democratic system like voting in the PSA.”
He said his slate’s agents were taking notes of all complaints received. “Therefore I’ve been in contact with the election officer, the chairman of the elections committee, all morning since 6.30 am.” Callendar was optimistic. “We are going into that election count later this evening victorious.”
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