Submitted by David Comissiong, President, Clement Payne Movement
The exchange of hundred dollar bills for votes has now become a standard practice in Barbadian general elections, and if this corrupt practice is not brought to an end it will eventually totally destroy the public or civic life of our nation!
Over the past two General Elections (2008 and 2013) a distinct practice has emerged in which politicians and their henchmen descend upon working-class communities and seek to bribe electors – particularly young men and women – with hundred dollar bills.
This corrupt practice has resulted in thousands of young Barbadians forming the impression that many, if not most, politicians – including some men and women who get elected to Parliament and some of those who go on to hold ministerial office – are no more than tawdry hustlers and con-men!
In other words, the people of our country are rapidly losing respect for the men and women who are supposed to be their national leaders. And when a critical mass of a population lose respect for the men , women and institutions that are supposed to provide national leadership, the nation is lost!
Furthermore, the vile practice of vote buying is gradually and sedulously stripping many of our youth of their idealism and moral values, and is also threatening to subvert the integrity of our electoral system , and by extension, our entire system of governance.
And so, the prevention of vote buying must now be viewed as a national priority!
Barbados does have an Election Offences And Controversies Act (Chapter 3 of the Laws of Barbados), which proscribes vote buying and deems it to be a “corrupt practice”. Indeed, Section 6 of the Election Offences and Controversies Act provides as follows : –
1) A person is guilty of a corrupt practice who is guilty of bribery.
(2) A person is guilty of bribery who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf
(a) gives any money….. to any elector or to…any other person on behalf of any elector…in order to induce any elector to vote or refrain from voting ;
(5) Any elector is guilty of bribery who, before or during an election, directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person on his behalf, receives, agrees to receive, or contracts for any money, gift, loan, or valuable consideration…for voting or agreeing to vote or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting
So, according to the Election Offences and Controversies Act both the buyer of the vote and the seller of the vote are guilty of having committed a “corrupt practice”.
Section 27 (1) of the Election Offences and Controversies Act then goes on to provide that ” a person guilty of a corrupt practice, other than personation, is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for six months or to a fine of five hundred dollars or both”.
Commission of the corrupt practice of “bribery” also has consequences for the election candidate who instigated and profited from it. The Act stipulates that such a candidate may have votes taken away from his tally, and – in certain circumstances – may be deprived of a seat that he “won”.
Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and the senior officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force should be putting together a number of motorized “flying squads” in marked and unmarked Police vehicles to carry out rapid anti-vote buying surveillance missions in all relevant communities during the last week of campaigning and on Polling Day in particular.
It is time that we lock up a few of these vote buyers !