On Tuesday afternoon the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) raised serious allegations of official tampering with the Cayo North by-election scheduled for next Monday, January 5.
It says that for no apparent reason, and with two weeks to go before the by-election, Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai ordered the immediate transfer of registering officer for the Cayo North and Northeast divisions, Jerrylyn Bruce, to the Cayo West electoral division.
There is no word as to whether the transfer has officially gone through, but the party laid the blame at the foot of United Democratic Party (UDP) chairman and former chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), Alberto August, who they accuse of making untoward advances on Jerrylyn Bruce regarding a key piece of information, the division’s electoral binders.
At a briefing on Tuesday Alberto August’s opposite number, the PUP’s chairman Henry Charles Usher, broke down for PLUS News the serious implications of any alleged tampering with the binder.
“In these rural areas especially there are a lot of persons who may not have picture ID. The only way to identify that person if they come to the polls is by viewing the binder. The binder has the person’s information and also has a picture of the voter.
If any party, if any person is allowed to take those binders out of the office they can change those pictures, they can manipulate the information in the binders, and if a person shows up there and purports to be somebody else and the binder matches that person they are allowed to vote, and thus you disenfranchise the real voter from coming to vote. So it’s very serious. Those binders cannot leave that office.
The election officers in there, the Supervisor of that office, is a guardian of democracy ihn that particular constituency, and they must ensure that that binder stays in there.”
Henry Usher says Jerrylyn Bruce has certain rights under the Public Service Regulations to challenge the decision.
The party’s legal advisor, Anthony Sylvestre, explains the procedure for transfers.
“There is actually a time-scheduling which the intention to transfer should be notified to the public officer, and the actual effective time for the transfer is supposed to be done later on. So several months on advance are given to the public officer, to make the necessary steps and changes that will be as a consequence of the transfer.
Bearing all of that in mind, one has to be extremely suspicious of the very aggravated and quick decision to transfer this particular Registering Officer. Along with that is the backdrop that there is credible information that the Chairman of the Government Party has recently requested a Registering Officer, and those requests were rebuffed, and as a consequence what followed was this letter and notification of immediate transfer.”
According to former Chief Elections Officer and current PUP Secretary General Myrtle Palacio, Alberto August’s behavior is another in a long line of apparent transgressions he committed going back to his days as EBC chairman, and she identified it as part of the UDP’s alleged attempts to influence the outcome of elections.
But a more recent action has caught the party’s eye. On Nomination Day in Cayo North, December 15, Alberto August was seen with the returning officer for the by-election, Marcelo Windsor, apparently chatting as the PUP prepared to nominate Richard Harrison as their candidate. Mr August is at fault for his attempts at influence, says Myrtle Palacio, but so too is Mr Windsor.
“Even for the police who were there, this is tantamount to abuse of power. It is suspicious unprofessional behaviour on the part of the Returning Officer, Marcelo Windsor, because it is his office. He should not have allowed that to happen, and once it happened he should not have been see hanging out, I call it cavorting, both of them with this gentleman who was there as a UDP Chairman, at the time when we were getting ready to mount for the PUP.”