Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Trinidad's Opposition Leader wants international observers for August 10 poll

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 10:39 AM

Trinidad (CMC):  The leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Kamla Persad Bissessar, has written to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley requesting that international observers be present in Trinidad and Tobago for the August 10 general election.

In her letter, the opposition leader said that while the UNC acknowledges the ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the public health regulations that are currently in effect, “We are very concerned that measures are not in place to ensure citizens are able to exercise their franchise."

“International election observation or monitoring is an important mechanism for ensuring election integrity, and the UNC is of the firm view that international observers are needed to ensure that our election is conducted in a free, fair, and just manner that will reflect the true mandate of the people.”

Persad Bissessar said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has seen the critical role both international and CARICOM observers have played within the recent elections in Guyana.

She said that had it not been for the presence of international observers, “it is highly likely that …Guyana’s election process may be viewed as even further compromised”.

She told Rowley that as a member of a CARICOM delegation that visited Georgetown to meet with the main actors in the disputed elections “you can attest to the importance of international and regional observers in national elections today.

“At this juncture, there is sufficient time for international observers to enter Trinidad and Tobago, undergo quarantine, and upon testing negative for COVID-19, assume their duties. Any delays in issuing invitations to international agencies, however, could lead to our nation being deprived of this integral mechanism to monitor our election.”

She said Rowley must act “urgently” on this matter.

“Therefore, I call for exemptions to international observers to be granted as early as possible, so that the quarantine period can be completed well ahead of the general election,” said Persad Bissessar, who had warned previously that lawyers representing the party were on standby to challenge the.government’s decision to continue to keep the borders closed even during the election period.

She said that international observers have in the past, played an important role in Trinidad and Tobago’s elections and as a result does “not see any reason for you as the prime minister to deny this legitimate request in accordance with convention and international best practice.

“Citizens are also paying close attention to the government’s position on the call for international observers for the 2020 general election. A responsible government should do the right thing to ensure not just free and fair elections, but elections that are free of fear,” she wrote, urging that invitations be sent to CARICOM, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Carter Center.

Persad Bissessar’s UNC will contest 39 of the 41 seats in the elections, while the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) will contest all the seats. In the last general election, the PNM won 23 seats.

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