By Marion V. Ali
A number of exchanges between the People’s United Party (PUP) and the Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai last week, resulted in the Party requesting more time to review the proxy register and a demand that it be made available for scrutiny to all parties.
The exchange began last week, when the People’s United Party (PUP) requested to view the Proxy Register. Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai agreed, offering them one hour to do so. But the PUP was not happy with the response and made other demands.
In the letters to Tamai, the PUP stated that its demands are grounded on reports of irregularities it had received. Those reports claimed that proxy forms were being arbitrarily approved by the Elections and Boundaries Department.
This, the PUP argued, proved the need for scrutiny. The opposition party added that anyone contesting the General Elections should be allowed to study the register.
The party then threatened to take legal action against Tamai without further notice, if she did not respond favourably to its demand before Wednesday.
Tamai denies having instructed registering officers or staff members to sign blank proxy forms on her behalf. She further assured that as Chief Elections Officer, she signed an oath of office to uphold the Representation of the People Act and rules “without partiality, fear, favour or affection.”
She stated categorically that she has not and does not intend to “rig” or allow anyone to “rig” any type of election.
In addressing the media she pointed to a letter written by the Acting Registering Officer for the Cayo Central Electoral Division, who confirms that Tamai did not instruct anyone to sign blank proxy forms on her behalf.
Tamai noted that to stop accepting proxies to allow the PUP to review the Register by its stated deadline (November 3 at 10:00 a.m.), is a violation of the Representation of the People’s Act.
She explained that since proxies will be accepted up until Election Day, the Department would not allow for duly registered electors to be disenfranchised in any way from casting their vote.
The CEO’s response describes the PUP’s demand to make the Register available for review by November 3 at 10:00 a.m.as unreasonable, because the Department will not be able to go through the listing to ensure that no agent has voted by proxy until after the Returning Officers submit the infromation to the Department. A process normally done on the eve of elections are held.
Tamai said that in the interest of avoiding confusion, it has not been a practice to provide copies of the incomplete document to any political party or candidate.
She concluded her lengthy letter by stating that copies of the Voter’s List were provided. She also said that the PUP will be provided with the final Proxy Register when it is completed and advised the party to have a representative at the Elections and Boundaries Department from 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, to wait for a copy of the final Proxy Register, whenever it is completed.
Tamai told the media on Friday that she had been the subject of threats and intimidation since the allegations arose. She said she will continue to carry out her work in a fair manner. Tamai’s residence has since been under 24-hour guard.