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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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UWI elections in limbo

THE 14,000 plus students enrolled at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine campus have been left in limbo following the postponement of yesterday’s UWI Student Guild election and the disqualification of 14 candidates without explanation.

One of those candidates, Rikash Ramlogan, claimed this was an attempt by members of the incumbent Guild Council to steal the election and the disqualified candidates were prepared to take legal action.

Notices were posted outside the guild’s office at the Student Activity Centre (SAC) stating that the election had been postponed and a meeting would be held in the next two days to announce a new date. Staffers said the guild’s executive members were in a meeting and could not comment on the reason for the postponement of the election. They declined to give a list of the candidates who were slated to contest the poll.

Ramlogan said the postponement was “a butchery of the process of democracy” because the disqualified candidates were chosen by the students.

“These candidates were disqualified on the basis of election rules. These rules that were set do not exist in the current guild constitution. The rules were set by the current guild council. Many of the members are candidates for the upcoming election. How can you set rules for an election you are contesting?”

Ramlogan added that students protested their dissatisfaction over the disqualification of these candidates during a heated meeting with the guild council members at the SAC on Tuesday night and the candidates were not informed by the council about an earlier meeting which was called to disqualify them.

Another candidate, Crystol Ramcharan, said the guild’s constitution states that a discretionary council is formed to disqualify any candidate but this did not happen on this occasion. With no functioning guild council and the council’s $2.7 million budget frozen pending an election, Ramlogan said many students are concerned that their interests are not being looked after as focus shifts towards a seeming power struggle within the guild. He explained this figure was based on over 14,000 students paying $175 annually in guild fees and the university was proposing to increase that fee to $200 in September.

Ramlogan said the disqualified candidates have been unable to get a hearing from UWI officials who have told them that only guild councillors could meet with the administration. Efforts to contact UWI principal, Prof Clemence Sankat, for comment were unsuccessful. Noting that previous guild elections have been fraught with allegations of outside political interference, Ramlogan said he could not say whether this was the case in this scenario. Former guild presidents Ravi Ratiram and Glenn Ramadharsingh are now members of the UNC Alliance.

Ramadharsingh was an opposition senator in the Eighth Parliament while Ratiram unsuccessfully contested the La Brea seat in last year’s general election.

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