Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

The Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) is continuing its calls to have the 2020 General Election postponed from its scheduled date of Monday 10th August 2020, arguing the current COVID-19 pandemic is a serious threat to the national community.

In its latest move, the PEP has written to President Paula-Mae Weekes, asking her to use her office to postpone the election.

The key argument PEP is making is that the country is in serious danger of “a full-blown community spread epidemic”, exacerbated by the campaigning currently taking place which does appear to conform to the COVID-19 protocols.

PEP also says despite its best mitigation efforts, the EBC may not be able to help reduce the virus spread.

The full text of PEP’s correspondence to Her Excellency, follows…

Your Excellency,

RE: REQUEST FOR THE POSTPONEMENT OF THE GENERAL ELECTIONS

We refer to your Proclamation of Legal Notice 24 January 31st 2020.

Madame President, you will no doubt be aware of the deterioration in the Covid 19 spread that, while thought under control, appears to be mushrooming into a full blown community spread epidemic.

The reason for this writing is out of concern that the General Election and everything leading up to it may have the effect of exacerbating the situation and promoting the spread of the virus to the detriment of the entire nation.

Campaigning itself is providing opportunities for transmission through multiples of contacts by thousands of people directly involved in the campaign who can ‘pick up’ the virus on one location and deliver it to another, creating what the World Health Organisation refers to as pathways to infection that social distancing guidelines are designed to interrupt.

Then there is the issue of the actual polling day where a million registered voters are expected to congregate at polling stations for hours, use the same confined facilities to vote, culminating in the insertion of a finger into the security ink that could now be transformed into a virtual soup of Covid19, creating the potential to infect everyone who uses it and everyone they subsequently come into contact with.

Madame President as you are no doubt aware, the guidelines are clear and written for a time such as this, and while the Elections & Boundaries Commission could be instructed to implement protocols to remedy this brewing catastrophe including the creation of sanitisation protocols for all polling stations where every surface is sanitised between each and every voter and the addition of the extra hours to the polling day that this will require, or the postponement of the election altogether for the full thirty days allowed or more for the interruption of the transmission of the virus, a far more important issue than any other at this time.

The Representation of the People’s Act Section 34 states and I include for your assistance:

“34. (1) Where at any time between the issue of a writ under section 33(1) and the day appointed by the writ for the holding of a poll at any election the President is satisfied that it is expedient to do so by reason of —

(a) the existence of a state of war affecting Trinidad and Tobago;

(b) the declaration of a state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago or any part thereof by any authority empowered to make such a declaration;

(c) the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence or outbreak of infectious disease or other calamity, whether similar to the foregoing or not;

the President may by Proclamation adjourn the holding of the poll to some other day specified in the Proclamation being not more than thirty days after the day specified in the writ.”

Whether suppression of the virus will conform to the above mentioned thirty day delay or may require more time to be brought under control can be determined in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer.

Our overriding concern here needs to be decisions that do not inadvertently put lives at unnecessary risk creating a pathway for transmission through a general election.

A copy of this letter has also been sent to the Chief Elections Officer.

Thank you for your time and considerations.