“I am going to say to you tonight if we are returned to office and you see June or July come and things are not so that we can totally re-open and tourists can truly come back we are going to raise that stipend to $2,000 a month.”
Alden McLaughlin, Tropical Gardens – March 23, 2021
(CMR) The Elections Office has confirmed that they received a formal complaint against Premier Alden McLaughlin for treating/vote-buying after he revealed that if re-elected he would be increasing the tourism stipend to KYD $2,000 per month for displaced tourism sector workers.
The meeting was held in support of George Town Central Progressives candidate, Frank Cornwall in Tropical Gardens on Thursday, March 23.
The issue of treating has been at the forefront of this general election as many accuse Progressive members of vote-buying and “handing out cash envelopes” to ensure they are returned to their elected seats on April 14.
McLaughlin was the last speaker of the evening and gave a personal endorsement to Cornwall claiming that he was “an excellent political assistant”. He then went to state that he wanted to address “where we are as a country”. He spoke about how no candidate running against the government speak about COVID-19 and what they would have done differently.
He said that the cruise industry is not going to come back before 2022.
He then claimed that one of the independent candidates wishes to cancel the stipend. Shortly after that, he made the statement that his government is committed to increasing it if they are returned to office.
The statement immediately garnered criticism from many in the community including McLaughlin's opponent local attorney Samuel “Sammy” Jackson. In a statement sent out via social media he shared his disdain for this political tactic stating:
“That is a morally reprehensible, and illegal, act. Promising the most desperate segment of our population to reward them only if they return the members of the current government to their seats is a promise to treat, and is a criminal offense under the Elections Law.
And to falsely insinuate that the “opposition” candidates will deprive those poor desperate people of their meager stipend, only aggravates that offense. But the worst part is that it reminds those poor souls, who have been either put or left by the very same government into abject poverty in the desperate situation of having to wonder if their lifeline will disappear if they don’t vote PPM is a wicked and heartless act.
Because it reminds these folks, who deserve dignity as much as we all do, that they are beholden to the government for a lifeline, which will only be guaranteed if the PPM is returned to office. Talk about adding insult to injury! Any government that demands that its citizens must dispose of their dignity and surrender their right of choice of representation, else they will perish, is NOT a government, but an oppressive regime.
These are the tactics of a dictatorship like the one of Kim Jong-un and have no place in a free democratic society. Alden has shown, once again, that he believes that he is our Supreme Leader and that the rest of us are nothing but his pawns and his minion. I can only hope that the Governor and the Anti-Corruption Commission will give this the attention it deserves.”
CMR can confirm that Jackson is not the complainant in this matter despite his comments.
The offense of treating is defined in s. 95 of the Elections Act 2021 and carries a fine on summary conviction of two thousand dollars or to imprisonment for twelve months. The police would carry out the investigation and refer the matter to the DPP's office for a ruling.
In other related news, Progressive MP David Wight, JP of George Town West has been accused of the same offense after a voice note surfaced recently of a Ms. Watson from Windsor Park thanking him for “his gifts and a t-shirt” and then sharing that she was most grateful and ready to assist and support him.
There has never been a successful prosecution for treating despite many claims that it is a common occurrence during the months leading up to a general election. The Anti-Corruption Commission has encouraged candidates to “denounce any form of corruption” and launched an election anti-corruption campaign recently.