Page 8 Us Elections Kidnapping
Walking the marginal tightrope
Mr Hart, in the aftermath of the 2000 general election- which you lost, you were distraught for a long period. How emotionally equipped are you to deal with a similar situation should you lose next Monday night? EH: Yes. I was traumatised because of the events surrounding those polls. Prior to the election date we could not find about 3,000 people registered as voters when we were canvassing, which I reported to the leadership of the party, who subsequently met the Elections and Boundaries Commission. They told us that was not really so but I kept on complaining which went up to the election day itself. And as soon as the polls closed, the UNC’s constituency office which is located near here fired rockets, blasted music, celebrating before the first vote was counted, because they knew they had won. And that pattern did not change. It continued in 2001 which included deletions where we had people running like headless chickens all over the place demanding they be allowed to vote because they couldn’t find their names on the list.
This time around...? (Interrupting) We have another dimension now... Before getting there, are you having problems finding names on the list?
Just yesterday we did an exercise at Manoram Road in Kandahar Village and we were unable to locate 41 persons listed as voters in that area; some migrated and some do not exist but they are on the list. And we are going to publish those names because we intend to take stern action and it cannot go on like that. Heaven knows how many more have been strategically placed around the constituency. We have concrete evidence where people came from Chaguanas, people came from Biche, from other constituencies and are registered to vote in Tunapuna. Gypsy told me the UNC discovered a similar situation in his constituency (Ortorie/ Mayaro), and action was taken to rectify that. What is preventing you from taking corrective measures? We reported this matter to the EBC but we were told that the EBC is short-staffed, that they don’t have enough people to investigate these things and the names are there already, so that’s it.
You are going into the elections with the apparent knowledge that the cards are stacked against you? (Somewhat forlornly) Yes. And many of the things we spoke about before are still happening—like poll cards arriving at addresses where those people never lived. And right on Richard Street a polling station has been relocated to the Tabernacle Church a little way from here.
Didn’t somebody object to the station being where it was? But who is the somebody? And what is the objection? I am not sure if a candidate ought to be informed about the pending removal of a polling station but I certainly was not informed about this change-over. I have concrete evidence about Guyanese living in the mountains coming down during the day for water in the same church and going back in the night to sleep. With that kind of information why don’t you take the authorities to flush out these “illegal people”? Well I don’t want to say anything on that, Mr Raphael. Right now I am very concerned that the election should be reduced to this sort of thing. Mr Hart, your victory resulted in the 18-18 tie in 2001. Yet you were not made a full minister. Do you think you are not being taken seriously by the party’s hierarchy? I will not say so but I feel to myself—that is my gut feeling—that with my experience in the political arena I feel that if given that opportunity—I would like to be given that opportunity—and I hope one day that it would happen.
Do you think you are being overlooked because you are not —quote and unquote—lettered, unlike some of other candidates, and are you content simply always being the bridesmaid and not the bride? (Lowering his head and smiling) No. And that is being honest. Whatever is given to me... I am a team player. Why do you think the Tunapuna voters should return you to the parliament? (Takes out a blue ink pen and proceeds to scribble on a copybook page on the table) OK. Well I have been in the trenches for over 40 years here. I am rooted here, as you see, based here. I have an open-door policy at my home. If you look at my political track record, 1991-1995, in three years I was able to get the St Augustine Regional Complex, the Wharfe Trace community centre, La Seiva hard court, La Mango hard court,
Tunapuna Administrative Complex, water up in the Caura Valley and a lot of other things. All that happened in three years and ten months. And now that we are back in government for eight months, Tunapuna is shining once again. We have given water to more than 5,000 households. So based on that the people would want to continue to support me. What I am pleased about is the re-introduction of several people-oriented programmes that the UNC regime had abandoned. So the people are solidly behind Eddie Hart, man. And Eddie Hart is solidly behind them. That incident involving the Mayor of Chaguanas and yourself which the police are investigating, Prime Minister Manning has apologised on your behalf. Was he correct to do so? Mr Manning has always been in the role of peacemaker and it’s what he stands for and we are a disciplined party. Things got out of hand at the EBC in Tunapuna in terms of voices being raised. There was a heated exchange of words between Mr Nagessar and myself. Hearing Mr Nagessar was inside there with a whole set of people getting them registered- I mean that was too much for us to take.
When you say it was too much for you to take, was he breaking the law? Yes. He was taking people who don’t reside in Tunapuna. How do you know that? (Scribbling more intensely around the entire page) Because the evidence shows that. They were transferring them; if somebody come with their ID card saying Chaguanas, and they say that you live at Morton Street in Tunapuna, and you don’t live there... that is breaking the law. Are you suggesting the EBC is incapable of tracking down illegal voters and you were right to take the law into your own hands? Nobody took the law into their own hands. We questioned their presence because we felt all was not well as reports were coming in over the past few days leading up to that particular day—people coming to be registered who don’t live here. There are some hard working people at the EBC and I commend them for that, but there are others at the higher echelon (raising his hand with the pen above his head) who are in collusion with the UNC. You have any evidence to support that? (Back to the scribbling and raising his voice) I will continue because I suffered the brunt of that in the year 2000, and here it is we are faced with the same problem again. We have to be tracking down Guyanese... we are not the immigration authorities.
The fact that he has apologised, doesn’t it suggest you were culpable in that incident and why didn’t you apologise yourself? I did humbly apologise on the radio, not on the press and that is perhaps why you are asking me that question, you did not hear the apology. I said that already. Right now that is a non-issue... I have more pressing problems because I have to move and stop these people. Is Carlos John a non-issue? (Frowning while scribbling) Carlos John came into Tunapuna and probably underrated Tunapunians. Carlos John thought, ‘I come into Tunapuna, I a big jefe, I have plenty money, people go be eating outta my hands so I could go into the market and I give the vendors lipstick and this sort of t’ing,’ which he did Sunday. They do not need nail polish, they need better facilities to ply their trade, improved facilities at the market. So it’s utter disrespect going and buy out bread at a bakery and offer the people, you understand?
That sort of politicking. I thought that was something of the past. Carlos John just come into this constituency and started giving away things. I am saying Eddie Hart and his family have been giving out things to the residents long before I came into politics. Mr Carlos John just giving that because he want them to vote for him and you never see me in full view of the camera giving out things to needy. I see that you are ready to go on your walkabout, so finally what’s your message to the electorate in Tunapuna? Yeah, I getting ready. What I want to say? That we in the PNM have always been advocating free and fair elections and incident free. We have done well over the past nine months or so and we want a clear mandate to continue the job that we have been doing. Mr Hart, as of 11.38 a.m. Wednesday, do you think Monday’s poll will be free and fair and free from fear? Well, I am just hoping. We are doing our best to ensure that the elections are conducted properly because our mission is to save T&T.