ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL... UNC Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC (left), and PNM leader and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right)

Political Leader of the United National Congress (UNC), Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, is maintaining that the Prime Minister is misleading the country, where election observers from the Commonwealth are concerned.

The UNC Leader is accusing PM Dr Keith Rowley of stalling the process, so that observers from the Commonwealth would not be able to get to T&T in time for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, before the poll on Monday 10th August 2020.

She restates the claim in a news release issued today by the party’s secretariat.

Following is the full text of that statement…

KAMLA: KEITH ROWLEY TRYING TO MISLEAD THE POPULATION ON ELECTION OBSERVERS

Political Leader of the United National Congress Kamla Persad Bissessar, SC is accusing the Prime Minister of trying to mislead the public on the ability of Commonwealth Observers to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago to monitor the 2020 General Election.

On July 8th, 2020 the Prime Minister announced via his Facebook page that he wrote to Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, QC, formally inviting them to send election observers to T&T.

On Friday 24th July, after Mrs Persad-Bissessar questioned the status of international election observers, and during a virtual “lime” the Prime Minister indicated that the Commonwealth had replied saying “they didn’t think they would be able to come because of the cost”.

Dr Rowley is once again trying to mislead the population. The Prime Minister is well aware that revised guidelines for Commonwealth election observation were agreed to and released at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2018, which he attended.

During that meeting of CHOGM, it was stated that the new guidelines “adopt best practice, as also reflected in the Declaration of Principles on International Election Observation, and will ensure the on-going integrity, value and impact of Commonwealth observer missions as they continue to support the strengthening of electoral democracy and the political rights of Commonwealth citizens.”

Section 8.2 of these guidelines states:

“The costs of each observer mission are covered by the Secretariat. No funds are sought from the host member country being observed…”

Rowley’s actions can now be viewed as an attempt to not only stall the process so that Observer teams would not have enough time to enter the country and undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine, but a deliberate attempt to hoodwink the population mere days before the election, and avoid scrutiny.

As said previously, International Observers have in the past, played an important role in Trinidad and Tobago’s elections. In the 2007 and 2010 elections, we received observers from the Commonwealth and Caricom, while the 2015 election was observed by the Commonwealth at my request.

We have seen the pivotal role International Observers played in the recent elections in Guyana and we can agree that without them, their elections would have not reflected the true will of the people.

Likewise, we have always had a long tradition of International Elections Observers present in Trinidad and Tobago and as such they must be present.

Keith Rowley must take full responsibility if International Observers are unable to arrive here in time to ensure proper scrutiny of the election process.

I am calling on the Prime Minister to act immediately to put the necessary arrangements in place so we will not be left without Observer teams for the first time in our recent electoral history.

Let us continue to do all we can to ensure our tradition of free and fair elections in Trinidad and Tobago is upheld while protecting the health and wellbeing of our nation.