Tuesday 19th April, 2005 Posted: 15:52 CIT (20:52 GMT)
A special police team has been set up to receive and investigate formal complaints of alleged illegal activities during the campaign leading up to General Elections on 11 May.
This is the first such a team has been set up, Elections Office, Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez confirmed. In the past, when he received complaints, he referred them to the Police Department.
“People would call and complain, but no one followed through with a formal statement or affidavit,” he said.
Elections Office Counsel Suzanne Look Loy explained that, without a formal complaint, the allegation would amount to hearsay. “We don’t want to be seen as harassing candidates” based on complaints that may or may not be made in good faith, she indicated.
At the same time, Ms Look Loy said, “People don’t like feeling that they are being coerced. It’s a fundamental right to vote unencumbered.”
According to a press release issued by Mr. Gomez, in conjunction with the Royal Cayman Islands Police, established the investigative team because of the number of informal complaints Mr. Gomez has received.
Those complaints allege activities ranging from acts of bribery and undue influence to the provision of gifts in an illegal attempt to induce votes.
Individuals who wish to make a formal complaint may do so by calling Detective Sergeant Beersingh at 926–0670 or Detective Inspector Powery at 926–0667.
Members of the public, candidates and their agents are reminded that campaigning is a lawful means commonly used to encourage people to vote. But activities that encourage corruption and constitute election offences will not be tolerated.
The Cayman Islands has always been considered to be a law–abiding jurisdiction, the release points out. The fact that elections are around the corner provides no exception.
Persons who may be deemed liable for committing election offences include candidates standing for election, their agents, persons acting on behalf of candidates as well as members of the public who receive gifts in exchange for votes.
“The receiver is just as guilty as the giver,” Mr. Gomez emphasised.
Members of the public in particular are urged to refrain from receiving any gifts such as money, food or any other items in exchange for a promise to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate. Such individuals may be committing an election offence and may be liable to prosecution.
Candidates or any other persons who have been convicted before a magistrate for committing acts of bribery, treating or undue influence under the Elections Law (2004 revision) may be liable to a fine of $2,000 or to 12 months imprisonment.
But the penalty goes further. Such persons shall also, for a period of five years from the date of conviction, be barred from: being registered as an elector or voting at any election or by–election; being elected a Member of the Assembly, or if elected before conviction, shall be barred from retaining his or her seat as a member.
Mr. Gomez urged candidates and their agents to familiarise themselves with the Elections Law (available at the Assembly Building) and the Candidates and Agents Handbook, available at the Elections office, fourth floor of Kirk House.