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Feb 5, 2008

Commonwealth election observers tour country

Story PictureA team of three experts from the Commonwealth are in Belize to observe the February seventh General Elections. The team, led by Former Jamaican Foreign Minister, K. D. Knight, includes former Provincial Chief Electoral Officer, Bob Patterson of British Columbia, Canada and Dr. Nemata Eshun-Baiden from Sierra Leone. They are supported by three Commonwealth Secretariat staff. Since their arrival last Friday, the observers have been traveling countrywide to obtain a first-hand grasp of the situation on the ground. They’ve met with members of all political parties and have visited the Elections and Boundaries Department. Knight was interviewed via telephone this evening by News Five’s Marion Ali and the Caribbean Media Corporation’s Desmond Brown.

K. D. Knight, Head, Commonwealth Expert Team, Belize General Elections
“This morning we passed by the Elections Commission and we saw a number of the election officials getting their kits so that they seem to be quite prepared.”

Marion Ali
“As you go about the week’s work what will be the scope of your coverage, your observation, your mission?”

K.D. Knight
“We are going into all six districts. I’m on my way right now to Cayo. We have deployed our other resources right across the six districts. We won’t be able to visit every polling station. Certainly there are some that we will be visiting. There’s a list I don’t have the list now, here with me. We feel that we will have a good degree of coverage that can give us a feel of the procedures on election day. We have heard some concerns and we have made some assessment and as it is now it seems very balanced.”

Marion Ali
“What would the concerns be and who might they be coming from?”

K.D. Knight
“The concerns are related to having cameras and cell phones in the polling stations, transportation of the ballot boxes, those are the major concerns that we had. We have had some concerns expressed about presiding officers. Those are the three main areas.”

Desmond Brown, C.M.C. Reporter
“Give us, Mr. Knight, a sense of what are the powers that you have as it relates to election day and if you see things which could be considered not the normal course of things. What can the observers do in a case like that?”

K. D. Knight
“Well we are an observer group and clearly, we cannot interfere with the proceedings. So that if we see something that strikes us as wrong we really can’t interfere. What we have to do is to include that in our report for the future and we will make recommendations as to changes that we think should be made to prevent the recurrence. We have no jurisdiction to interfere in the proceedings. That is a matter for those who are here, the relevant authorities here.”

Knight said the team will prepare a report before leaving the country and will submit it to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, who will in turn distribute it to the political parties and the Elections and Boundaries authorities. It will also be placed on the Commonwealth website. The experts have performed similar tasks in other Commonwealth countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Pakistan, Nigeria, Fiji, and Zimbabwe.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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