Re-registration starts in San Pedro Town

Pictured are the registrars - from right to left, Clarissa Martinez, head re-registration Officer Maria Arana and Brenda Henkis.

On July 7th, 1997, at 10:00 a.m. San Pedro Town, along with most of the country, commenced the re-registration process. Head re-registration officer Maria Arana along with re-registration officers Clarissa Martinez and Brenda Henkis opened the re-registration polling station located in the lower flat of the San Pedro R.C. School at 10:00 a.m. sharp.

The commencement of re-registration was a little rocky, with some antagonism evidenced between the re-registration officers and some members of the People's United Party (PUP). Milo Paz Jr. along with several PUP supporters were gathered outside the office before it was opened. According to Paz, Arana was asked if two PUP scrutineers could be allowed to enter the registration office. "We asked if we could have our two scrutineers inside but she said no one was allowed inside," Paz explained. "I told her there were UDPs inside and if our two scrutineers were not allowed then the UDPs had to leave too. We had an exchange of words and then she showed me her middle finger and closed the office." Paz says that Arana opened the office again at 10:15 a.m. and the re-registration exercise commenced at 10:25 a.m. "I was the first one to be registered. It took me 40 minutes and they had to take my photo 5 times before they got it right."

Almost immediately the question of married women came up. A woman from a well known family was asked to present proof that she was married to her husband. The woman presented her passport and wanted to register under her married name. Told by the re-registering officer that she had to present her marriage certificate, She left and returned with her marriage certificate and was re-registered. Members of the PUP contacted Chief Elections Officer Urban Reyes and asked if a marriage certificate was necessary and to request that two PUP scrutineers be allowed in the polling station. Reyes faxed the PUP office in the afternoon with the following message addressed to Ms. Arana.

"MESSAGE: Please take note that two PUP scrutineers should be allowed in the Polling Station at any one time as an observer in the Re-Registration Exercise. They should not interfere with the process in any way.

Also please note and inform the public that if a passport made out in their married name is being used as a form of identification, a marriage certificate is not needed. A marriage certificate is needed only in the case where a person presents his/her birth certificate.

Urban A. Reyes
Chief Elections Officer"

Ms. Arana instructed the WPC to inform Paz that the PUP scrutineers were allowed to enter the office. Luis Frutus and Donald Conners acted as the two PUP scrutineers. At about 2:50 p.m. it was reported by the PUP scrutineers that only about 12 people had been registered.

At 7:00 p.m. Arana announced that the exercise was closed until 10:00 a.m. the following morning. According to the PUP scrutineers, 51 people were registered, almost all PUP supporters. A reporter from the San Pedro Sun approached Arana and asked if she would care to comment on the day's activities. Arana replied, "I have no time right now. Come after 7, maybe then." The San Pedro Sun's reporter returned at 7. Arana stated, "Hmmm, I really tired now and still I have to go to the police station." She was asked when would be an appropriate time and Arana said, "Come back tomorrow about 12:00 when I am not working." At 12:00 noon the next day, San Pedro Sun's reporter returned to speak to Arana. Arana said, "I don't have any comment to make, it's not really important."

Chief Elections Officer Urban Reyes emphasized that incidents that had occurred in San Pedro were due to behaviour and the integrity of the re-registration process was not affected. The 51 registrations on the first day were within the national average and this number should increase as everyone becomes more familiar with the process, he said. Mr. Reyes said, "Some personal incidents have been due to a lack of understanding. This process depends on common decency and courtesy." In reply to rumours that United Democratic Party members were being registered outside of the re-registration office, Mr. Reyes said, "At the end of the day, the photography log should be signed off by the political party scrutineers and cross checked with the applications. This will eliminate any possibility of re-registration outside of hours or off the premises."

Mr. Reyes visited San Pedro on Wednesday, July 9th and found that People's United Party volunteers were stationed outisde the re-registration office utilizing official looking forms, obtaining information from people prior to their re-registering, an activity against the rules. He confiscated the forms and gave them to the police. Mr. Reyes said "People should be allowed to come in and register unhindered." He said he had no objection to political parties conducting exit interviews (after they completed re-registering.) Mr. Reyes held a meeting with the local re-registration representatives and was confident that the process would continue to improve.

San Pedro Sun

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