On January 31, 2013, the Barbados Labour Party candidates went en masse to the Treasury to pay their deposits for the upcoming elections. The following day, the Democratic Labour Party candidates attempted to parrot the exercise and failed to leave the desired impression. However, one aspect of the copycat show caught my attention. The candidate for St. Philip West, Dr. David Estwick, declared that he was a lawmaker and not a lawbreaker, and that he would not be putting up any posters before Nomination Day, February 6th.
Believe it or not, I was proud of him for stating his intentions to stay within the four corners of the law, even though I have some doubts that putting up posters, before Nomination Day, constituted a breach of the law.
Imagine my surprise, on Sunday February 3rd, while driving through St. Philip West, I saw a number of posters bearing Dr. Estwick’s image stuck to light poles. After careful examination of one of the posters, and being aware of his public statement of intention to follow the law; I would like to point out to him that his posters do not conform to the legal requirements. Section 18 of the Election Offences and Controversies Act states, in part:
(1) A person shall not –
(a) print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any bill, placard, or poster having reference to an election or any printed document distributed for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate; or
(b) post or cause to be posted any such bill, placard or posters aforesaid; or
(c) distribute or cause to be distributed any printed document for the said purpose,
unless the bill, placard, poster or document bears upon he face thereof the name and address of the printer and publisher.
(3) A candidate or election agent acting in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an illegal practice, and any other person so acting is liable on summary conviction to a fine of five hundred dollars.
Further, section 32 states:
Where any corrupt practice or any illegal payment or hiring or any offence under section 18 is committed by any association or body of persons, corporate or unincorporated, the members of the association or body who have taken part in the commission of that offence are liable to any fine or punishment imposed for that offence by this or any other Act.
Having served as a campaign manager and election agent, in my party-political days, I know how easy it is to inadvertently transgress the myriad election rules. I am therefore not asking the Electoral and Boundaries Commission to institute legal proceedings against Dr. Estwick or any other candidates that finds themselves in similar circumstances. But the commission cannot or rather should not allow the breach to continue, and should order the removal of the offending posters.
I have often said that our political and governmental organizations are mere parodies of what exist elsewhere. It seems as though that the people of this country are satisfied with form not substance. Let’s just hope that the Electoral and Boundaries Commission would prove to be the exception, but I am not holding my breath.