It is not strange that since the election has been called the main Opposition Party and in some instances, even the ruling UDP have been expressing concerns at how things are being done in the campaigning process and more so, in the area of voters list and registrations. Those concerns have ranged from the recent swearing in of naturalized Belizeans to land ownership by Government officials to the nationality of certain Standard Bearers, alleged secret deals by the Prime Minister with Fortis and alleged interference by the Government of Belize in the Elections and Boundaries Department as well as the alleged illegal issuance of signed proxy forms. Tonight, we continue on the story of the proxy forms and the major allegation made against the Chief Elections Officer that she has been allowing blank proxy forms to be signed. But before we get into the heart of this matter, we will start by having the proxy process explained by a senior elections officer, Alma Middleton.
“That proxy is the Representation of the People’s Act, Section 19 (1). The proxy: now only persons that can use proxy are members of the Belize Defense Force, the Police Department, people working on diplomatic missions and abroad the consulates outside Belize and then people working as elections officers on election day. When you apply for a proxy you find someone to be your proxy because you will be working somewhere else then you come to the office, you get your two forms. For instance we use an example, a police officer because he will be working doing police duties so he will come to the office, he will take it to his Commissioner or the person in charge of the precinct, he fills out the information and the proxy will come to the office and we will look up if that proxy is registered. We will then sign it and give him back the proxy number 25, the 25 belongs to him and the 26 belongs to us. So that is the paper that he will give to the person voting proxy.”
With that being said, in terms of who qualifies to vote via proxy, we now move on to the allegation made by the People’s United Party, particularly, in the Cayo Central Division. A letter came to our attention yesterday in which allegations of the unlawful signing of blank proxy forms. This letter, signed by Cayo Central’s Campaign Manager, Horace Grant, refers to an incident in which a police officer had applied to vote via proxy and had acquired the assistance of the Chairman of the UDP, Alberto August. The two forms were reportedly signed and stamped by the Commissioner of Police but there was reportedly an oversight on the part of the Commissioner in dating the form. Based on that oversight, the elections officer at Cayo Central reportedly refused to accept the form without the date. August, who reportedly considered it a trivial issue, made direct contact with the Chief Elections Officer, who then directed that the proxy form be accepted. The Elections Officer, who had initially rejected the form, stood her ground and despite directive from her superior, continued rejecting the proxy form. A second call was made to Tamai and that call was placed on speaker phone in the office in which she directed that the form be accepted. At the end of the entire exchange, the form was accepted and the police officer was able to have his proxy vote submitted. The letter, however, went on to accuse the Chief Elections Officer of corruption, as it stated, quote, “During this call Mr August had you on speaker thereby permitting all those present at the moment, to listen in to your response, where you were instructing the Registrar to sign these blank proxy forms. This is a blatant act of corruption and also shows that Elections and Boundaries is allowing one of the main political party to control the voting for a General Election which is illegal and against all democracy.” End of quote. Such an accusation and allegation brought public via the media houses did not bode well with Tamai and by the time the evening news aired, she had already responded to Grant’s letter, calling the letter an act of mischief and making it clear that she will not be intimidated. Her three page response, confirmed that she did use her discretion and had the proxy form accepted as it was in her view, something that could be overlooked considering that the signature and the stamp of the Commissioner were present. Her letter however, was quite firm and ended making her position clear by saying, quote, “Whenever these false accusations are being made, it makes one wonder why it is that persons attempt to smear the name of the department. We are here to provide efficient and timely services to the people of Belize. Additionally, as the Chief Elections Officer, I will ensure that the facts are brought to light and will not allow any political party, candidate or representative of any candidate to attempt to misinform and misguide anyone that any act of corruption or illegal activities are occurring within the Elections and Boundaries Department. I have signed an oath of office which I am sworn to uphold the Representation of the People Act and any regulations and rules without partiality, fear, favour or affection. As a result, I will categorically state that I have not, and do not have any intention to rig or allow anyone to rig any type of election.” End of quote.