Ballot Box Scare – Lluidas Vale ballot boxes threatened as parties jostled for control along transportation route

There were scary moments during the transportation of ballot boxes from Lluidas Vale Division in St. Catherine North West on September 3 – hours after the closure of polls.

The situation has fueled calls for the Electoral Office of Jamaica, along with other relevant authorities, to significantly boost security around the Lluidas Vale Division boxes in future elections.

The Division, considered a PNP bastion in the constituency, covers communities such as Tydixon, Top Hill, Juan de-Bolas, Pennington, and Lluidas Vale proper.

In the General Election last Thursday, the candidates who squared off to represent Lluidas Vale and other sections of the constituency were: Hugh Graham of the People’s National Party (PNP), Newton Amos of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and independent candidate Gene Guthrie.

When the polls closed, ballot boxes from polling stations throughout Lluidas Vale Division were taken to the vicinity of the Shady Grove Police Station – also located in Lluidas Vale. From there, the boxes were to be transported to the counting centre several miles away at Linstead Courthouse.

Shortly before the journey commenced, there was a major standoff between JLP and PNP supporters, who had converged outside the police station.

Some of them were jostling for positions in the line of vehicles heading to the counting centre. Some of the vehicles were carrying the ballot boxes.

Police officers struggled to put the situation under control.

The crowd eventually dispersed when a relatively heavy rainfall started.

When the vehicles eventually left the police station area for the nocturnal trip through heavily forested areas, they were escorted by a handful of police officers.

A few minutes into the journey, the vehicles, including the ones transporting the ballot boxes, came to a halt on a section of the Worthy Park main road – amid security concerns.

Security concerns later resulted in the vehicles detouring when they should have entered the town of Linstead.

The detour took them through Bog Walk and then into Linstead – a route that, under normal circumstances, would not have been travelled.

BLAME GAME

None of the political aspirants who made the trip from Lluidas Vale to Linstead took responsibility for the political chaos, which surrounded the transportation of the ballot boxes.

Graham of the PNP indicated that the situation indeed was chaotic. “Anything that falls in the realm of chaos and confusion, I am not in support of it,” he told The Beacon.

Graham also said the JLP seemingly was using intimidating tactics.

“I don’t know why the JLP would have been so prominent in Lluidas Vale [on Election Day], knowing that Lluidas Vale is predominantly a PNP supporting environment. To me, that would only come for a means of intimidation because it is not their strength. There are areas that are their strength that I believe they would go to protect… We didn’t go into their strong areas to intimidate them,” Graham further reasoned.

In the meantime, JLP councillor candidate in the Lluidas Vale Division, Joel Williams, accused Graham of being part of the chaos that prevailed around the transportation of the ballot boxes.

“Mr. Graham and his entourage of about 15 cars were there and they stopped right in front of the police station… It was a scary moment. At one point, I was even thinking about getting out of the line of traffic and try find a safe haven. I was in fear of my life…” Williams explained.

He recommended that, in the future, the authorities should intensify security for ballot boxes leaving Lluidas Vale Division.

“They should have police from outside [Lluidas Vale] come in, because it was obvious that Graham had full control and it seems like these police [in Lluidas Vale] were of no use. They were just walking around. Hugh Graham is not God; he doesn’t have any authority over the police,” Williams further said.

There, so far, is no report of anyone tampering with the Lluidas Vale Division ballot boxes on Election Day.

The Electoral Office of Jamaica has declared Graham the winner of the seat.

The Author: Horace Mills holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media and Communications from CARIMAC – University of the West Indies. He is the recipient of various awards, including the prestigious FairPlay Award and the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award For Excellence In Journalism. Mills worked as News Editor in the British Virgin Islands, and as Senior Journalist in both radio and print media. During his teenage years, Mills was a Correspondent for Teen Herald, and Editor of The Eagle – a publication at Charlemont High School, where Mills also served as Head Boy. He is a journalist at heart.


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