Prime Minister Freundel Stuart would have raised more than one or two eyebrows last weekend when he publicly disclosed during a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) meeting at The Lester Vaughn School that he currently has in his possession, “hard proof” of irregular voter behaviour in the last election.
Indeed, all would have been waiting with bated breath to hear what our leader was able to uncover given what seemed to be no idle vow issued by him at the end of the 2013 poll to get to the bottom of any alleged vote buying.
But given the rampant nature of these reports and all that would have been whispered in loud tones about the conduct of our political class in the last election in particular, we must say that we are very surprised, disappointed even, that after waiting for five years, Mr Stuart only has “hard proof” of one measly instance of alleged “vote buying”.
This is not to say that one such instance is not one too many, but surely, it is a well-known fact that vote buying has become a common feature of our general elections in the last 25 or so years and that the practice – though illegal – is not limited to any one political grouping.
However, Mr Stuart would have us believe that all hands within his ruling Democratic Labour Party are squeaky clean and that it is only Barbados Labour Party emissaries that are in the habit of seeking to frustrate the will of the people and to influence the final outcome of our elections for the sake of themselves by offering financial inducements to voters.
We think not!
In fact, given the lateness of the electoral hour, we are not even going to go down the road that our Prime Minister would have us go in terms of believing that vote buying would only have occurred in Opposition Leader Mia Mottley’s constituency in 2013, based on what can only be described at this stage as two insipid reports devoid of any real detail from the police and the other from the Electoral and Boundaries Commission of all agencies, of an unidentified female voter, who allegedly saw the need to take a photograph of her ballot to show to Ms Mottley after she had voted for the St Michael North East incumbent.
If anyone needs to go on trial here over this report, it is really the Prime Minister for failing to come clean by letting us know why is this revelation only now being made, five years after he boldly promised to investigate worrying claims of vote buying in the last poll.
Furthermore, how long have the aforementioned reports, which he said he only recently “revisited”, been in his possession? And certainly if what you have is hard proof, then why has the unnamed female election law breaker not been arrested and charged? Indeed, why has her file not been handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutions?
Furthermore, is this the only evidence that the EBC and the police have found? What about the other constituencies in which people were being bussed in and out to vote, where there were reports of brown envelopes being handed out? For surely, if there is only “hard proof” of one instance of vote buying then our democracy is much more sound than Canada’s, even though eyewitness reports from our last polling day would seek to belie any such declaration.
We have no reason to doubt our leader when he says the alleged incident in St Michael North East “is no figment of my imagination, this is no fake news”. However, we feel that by not revealing the name of the alleged culprit, or ensuring that those ultimately responsible are brought to justice, amounts to our Government being complicit at the highest level in corrupting the very system that they are mandated to protect.
We therefore call on our prime minister to come clean on the alleged vote buying by making public the full findings of the alleged vote buying reports.
For if indeed there is money that is “floating ‘bout out there”, all need be on guard and astute enough to ensure that incidents like the one he outlined in St Michael North East do not happen again for the sake of our democracy and in order that the will of the people can prevail.
Indeed those of us who are intent on casting our ballots in the next election must be able to feel comfortable that we actually have a say in the final result and not that our vote is meaningless because the majority now have a partisan price tag attached.