PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith, has dismissed a “reckless and dangerous” statement by the general secretary of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Davendranath Tancoo, accusing the police of using roadblock exercises as a tactic to frustrate voters at a polling station in St Augustine.
Tancoo wrote to Griffith via email claiming “it is clear to us that these sudden exercises are meant to delay voters in that area, and to interfere with the free and proper exercise of the franchise (to vote)” and said the exercise was an abuse of police powers.
But in his response, Griffith said he found Tancoo’s letter to be “highly offensive and dangerous” and that he had accused the police of wilfully stopping people from voting in the general election.
Griffith said that he received the letter long after “the whole of Trinidad” had seen a copy, saying it is clear what the intention of the UNC general secretary was about.
Griffith said what transpired in the area was not a planned roadblock, adding “there was reckless driving taking place in a certain area so the officers started to stop vehicles.
“A general election does not mean that the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) is no longer required to fulfil our other duties. So people must break a red light, or drive on the shoulder, or overtake indiscriminately because it is Election Day?
“That is very absurd indeed. The TTPS will continue to effectively discharge its duties, whether it is Election Day, Carnival, or Christmas. We have our normal duties to perform and this shows the reckless and disingenuous comments coming from the General Secretary of a political party,” Griffith said.
He said that the police service conducts exercise duties almost on a daily basis at various locations.
“Our records would show that at least once a week we perform exercise duties at Evans Street, Curepe, because motorists often breach a lot of road traffic signs at that location. Officers were mandated by seniors to perform exercises over the weekend including today, Election Day.
“The exercise conducted by the Cycle Section today was done in good faith and there was no intention to disrupt the elections. During today’s exercise, the officers checked vehicle numbers, drivers permit and insurance,” Griffith said.
He said he had also visited the location during the day and did not see any line of voters at the polling station which the UNC had complained about.
Griffith said he is not aware that in a roadblock on Election Day, the cars are painted red or yellow so these “biased officers would know which to stop and which to allow to pass”.
The UNC is trying to unseat the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the election that is also being contested by 17 other political parties and four candidates.
More than 1 million people were eligible to cast ballots at the 2,200 polling stations that closed at 6.00 pm (local time).