Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke says he is happy that the election bell has been rung for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
But Duke told Guardian Media he was worried about whether quarantined voters will be allowed to exercise their franchise.
The PDP and the People’s National Movement (PNM) each won six seats in the January THA election, sending the assembly into a deadlock.
After the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) created three new constituencies in Tobago, THA chief secretary Ancil Dennis set December 6 as the date for fresh elections.
The PDP, the PNM and the newly-formed Innovative Democratic Alliance will all contest the upcoming election.
Yesterday, Duke said the Tobago electorate was happy about having a date to end the ‘Lent-long’ saga of the deadlock.
“December 6 is a day of reckoning, it’s a day when Tobagonians will go to the polls and they will join with the PDP in chorus and say, let we fix this, let we fix bread and butter issues, employment issues, let we fix the disrespect that Trinidad has been meting out to Tobago,” Duke said.
But he also expressed concerns and has called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to provide the PDP and Tobagonians with answers. He said the deadlock may have inspired ‘curious’ behaviour in the PNM and he wants the Prime Minister to ensure the election is fair.
“How do a person on quarantine go to the polls and exercise his franchise? We want to ask the question because we believe that the PNM can use the opportunity to have persons who associate with them in certain offices to say to persons “You are charged or you are deemed to be a secondary or primary contact and therefore you must quarantine.” And they can do that to several persons who they can target and result in a cheap victory,” Duke said.
He said even if someone is quarantined, they deserve an opportunity to vote.
He again reiterated his call for independent international observers to oversee the election. Duke had written to the Prime Minister before the election date was announced, requesting observers be brought in to ensure a fair election.
He said Rowley responded to his request, saying if he (Rowley) considers it necessary to have observers, he will take it into consideration.
This raises more questions, Duke said.
“I have asked him to kindly list or state the criteria that would be necessary in the upcoming THA primary elections that would qualify you to request independent election observers to be in attendance of our elections. I also asked him to kindly explain the term in due consideration in the face of the above criteria being met,” Duke said.
He said both questions were put to Rowley in another letter.
The PDP leader said there have been concerns about the PNM engaging with “certain people to steal elections.”
“We are calling upon him, this election is very sacred to the people of Tobago, it is their democratic right and they want to choose, Tobagonians want to choose, Tobagonians want to fix the issues that besettled (*sic) them for a long time,” Duke said.