It was only one month ago on June 9, that the duly elected Area Representative for Dangriga, Ivan Ramos had submitted his resignation from the House of Representatives. Today, we can tell you that via the electoral process, Ramos has been replaced. With the three candidates, Anthony Sabal for the PUP; Frank Mena for the UDP and Llewelyn Lucas for the third party and with the bi-election slated for July 8, the eve of the election in Dangriga had the municipality amped with traffic, music and vigour as the two major political parties held pre-election rallies, dividing families, friends and comrades as they chose between the red and the blue proverbial tents. From all accounts, both parties had support from every district around the country and so watching the crowd energized and hearing the dynamic speeches, was entertaining, to say the least. Frank Pawpa Mena had hundreds of supporters at his rally as he delivered the last of his campaign lines to the crowd while Anthony Sabal too had his political following. We spoke to both candidates the night before the polls opened.
“The past weeks have been very interesting and we have learnt a lot more about beautiful Dangriga in terms of talking with our people, listening to their concerns and talking about the issues that affect us.”
“We have worked very hard; we have done the ground work and you know at the foundation level if you put it in you expect to get it out and so I expect to get a voter turnout; we are calculating a sort of …. comparatively, the turnout in Dangriga has always been just below 60. We’ve calculated it at 60 and above and so that is our calculation and we’ve worked around that in terms of our statistics.”
Even as the pre-election hype faded and the polls opened the following morning, the senior members and supporters of both main parties remained positive and confident of a victory. Even Pastor Llewellyn Lucas displayed a sense of confidence.
“We have an exceptional candidate here in Dangriga; easy to sell. When you go around people say, “we know Mr.Sabal; he is a good man, he taught us, he was the Dean of the sixth form, an honest man, we know what we will get with him”. So, it’s been easy and I think his candidacy has inspired the other candidates from all over the country to come and support him.”
“We’ve been working on the ground and in the homes and that is what we are building, our position of victory and the fact that people are coming out and that we are going to see victory at the end of the day.”
“We have a very good candidate in Anthony Sabal. Anthony is an educator, a man who has been in this community all his life, he has been in education and serving the community of over 35 plus years and I think that has really resonated with the voters in Dangriga, Hope Creek and Sarawee to say that they can trust Anthony Sabal.”
“It’s been an experience that I will never forget. I actually had the opportunity to meet and greet the people of Dangriga and hear their concerns but most importantly hear that fact that they are echoing the same sentiments that I do, they want change, they want better and they want something better. They have to wear the red or the blue shirt because they are paying them to; but they want something different but at the end of the day you will hear the heart of the people of Dangriga; you will experience what the people of Dangriga really really want. The people of Dangriga today are determined about who they want to serve them for the next two years and then five years be it the regular PUDP or change or green something better. The Dangriga people are smart enough and wise enough and they understand that at the end of the day it’s not just a party or drinking, the children of Dangriga are hungry and in pain and the people of Dangriga are miserable and they want better and they want something different and Pastor Lu is extending that by the grace of God.”
In the end, about fourteen hours later, the results of the election came in quickly and by eight o’clock, information coming out of the counting room at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall was that Mena was significantly leading in the polls. The Prime Minister, Dean Barrow arrived at the counting station just after eight o’clock and within an hour, the media gathered and conducted exit interviews with Barrow, Sabal, among others.
“It’s not a matter of falling down. I’m very proud of the machinery, very proud of the campaigners the support we got from north south east and west. The People’s United Party came together we were unified yes we know the factors three weeks was as short time but as I said we hit the ground running and sprinting and there are always those factors that we have to consider no matter how confident we are.
“I really and truly, like I said, this is an arithmetic thing and in our democracy its the arithmetic that counts; who gets the most wins. So, I think that it’s a tremendous job on behalf of the United Democratic Party especially in the Lake Land area of which that was PUP stronghold but I am telling you you were out campaigning in Dangriga and people who were PUP were telling you not this time.”
“Naturally, we are all very pleased and thrilled and pleased. I do think that this is a very positive referendum result for the government. We are of course conscious that success requires additional effort, the burden of expectation increases we will do our very best to bring more progress to this particular constituency of Dangriga, Hope Creek and Sarawee.”
In this bi-election six thousand two hundred and seventy five were eligible to vote. Of that amount, three thousand seven hundred and four came out to the six polling areas located in Dangriga, Hope creek and Sarawee. Once the polls closed at 6pm, the thirteen ballot boxes were transported to the counting station, resulting in two thousand one hundred and sixty four votes for Mena; one thousand five hundred and twenty six for Sabal; fourteen votes for Lucas and thirty one spoilt ballots. This bi-election marks the second to occur following the voluntary resignation of a member of the House of Representatives. The first bi-election was held on January 5, 2015 after PUP’s Area Representative for Cayo North, Joseph Mahmud had resigned from the House of Representatives.