Stories of pre-inked fingers rife in St Mary SE

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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NOMINATION Day activities in St Mary South Eastern yesterday were rife with rumours that plans are afoot to pay some constituents to refrain from participating in the crucial October 30 by-election.

These stories are similar to ones told to the Jamaica Observer two weeks ago on a visit to the constituency, that the illicit act could rear its ugly head, marring the election.

Amidst the noise of ringing bells, vuvuzelas, songs on repeat, and the gyrating of jubilant supporters, word that the election — to be hotly contested by the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis and the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Dr Norman Dunn — could be determined on the eve of the poll was heavy on the lips of supporters on both sides of the political divide.

One supporter from the PNP warned Comrades not to take any money offered in exchange for dipping their finger in ink, which would prevent them from voting the following day.

“Some a dem licky licky and will do it, but mi naah look pon dem caah dem a one-day bellyful and five years hungry,” the Comrade said as she showed a group a photo on her smartphone.

The warning came as Opposition leader and PNP President Dr Peter Phillips addressed Comrades in the town, urging them to show the JLP that they are better than money.

Hours before that, JLP supporters positioned across from St Theresa Catholic Church, where nominations took place yesterday, insisted that the PNP is the party known to “buy dem way go Parliament”.

One supporter rebutted, saying that the Opposition party was broke this time around, but others charged that the party could not be trusted. This was before Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressed the media, stating that if he had to vote it would be for his party member Dunn, arguing that the PNP had done nothing to develop the constituency over the years.

Director of Elections Orrette Fisher told the Observer that he was aware of the rumour, but said that it is one that has managed to survive for years now.

“We have been hearing those allegations for years now, in relation to elections, and my understanding of how that would work is that they would pay people to dip their fingers in the ink and when they turn up at the polling station with it they are not able to vote.

“That is something that I, as director of elections, would have no control over. Any evidence of people paying electors to influence how they vote, or to not vote, would be something that should be dealt with by the security forces once proof is made available.

“The truth is electors who turn up with ink, under the law, would not be able to vote, but I have no knowledge of that happening. We have never had any evidence of that where we have electors turning up with their fingers pre-inked despite having heard those allegations before,” Fisher explained, adding that the ink used in national polls is imported.

Fisher also confirmed that the day went by incident-free, pointing to the strong police presence on the ground.

Amidst the presence of the security forces, Annotto Bay was transformed into a moving rally as scores of supporters from both political parties caused hours of traffic pile-up in the small town as they tried to outdo each other in a show of support for their respective candidate.

Labourites and Comrades lined Annotto Bay main road on either sides, withstanding the uncomfortably hot sun, disturbing the flow of the usually easy-going town as they awaited their candidate's arrival.

At minutes to 11 o'clock, Dunn arrived at the St Theresa Catholic Church flanked by Holness, party Chairman Robert Montague, and other high-ranking JLP members. His fee was paid with bills.

Rivalling candidate Alexis arrived shortly after one o'clock with Phillips, General Secretary Julian Robinson, and others. His fee was paid with $1,000 bills.

The St Mary South Eastern seat was left vacant after the sudden death of PNP Member of Parliament Dr Winston Green. Green won by only five votes in parliamentary elections last year when he defeated Dunn

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