Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has confirmed that he has made requests to potential benefactors within the Commonwealth community to cover the costs of international observers for the upcoming August 10 General Election.
In a release from the Office of the Prime Minister on Sunday, Rowley outlined the issues faced getting the observers to come to the country to oversee the election.
He said invitations were sent on July 9 to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Commonwealth to consider sending Election Observation Missions here for the election, while also notifying the organisations of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all entrants into the country as part of the established COVID-19 protocol.
“Both organisations have advised of their inability to meet the cost associated with the fourteen-day quarantine period required for entry into Trinidad and Tobago, which is an integral part of our management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they cited constraints due to financial strictures that disallow them from meeting this cost,” Rowley said in the release said.
“To ensure the integrity of the contribution of the Missions (recommendations and the report of Observation Missions), it is deemed necessary that the host Government (Trinidad and Tobago) not cover the costs related to the quarantine of members of the Election Observation Missions.”
In light of this, Rowley said requests were made to potential benefactors within the Commonwealth community to cover these costs but to date “no definitive positive results have been obtained and the timely arrival has expired if persons were to follow the established mandatory protocol.”
He said should any alternative arrangement for travel become available, “such requests will be subject to conditions laid down by the Chief Medical Officer in the most facilitatory and safe way.”
“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to persevere in attempting to secure the necessary resources and modalities to encourage the arrival of at least one Election Observation Mission. At this time, it appears that only a Caricom mission might be available if health protocols can be met,” it ended.
However, in order to safely go through a 14-day quarantine period in time to oversee the August 10 election, any observers will have to be in T&T by today for the latest.
But Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is accusing Rowley of trying to mislead the public on the issue.
In a release Sunday, Persad-Bissessar noted that Rowley said the Commonwealth didn’t think a team would be able to come because of the cost and that it was also difficult to get to T&T since there are no commercial flights.
But she said Section 8.2 of the guidelines for Commonwealth election observation states that the costs of each observer mission is covered by the Secretariat and 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,” Persad-Bissessar said.
In the past, she said international observers have played an important role in the 2007, 2010 and 2015 General Elections.
“We have always had a long tradition of International Elections Observers present in Trinidad and Tobago and as such they must be present,” she said.
“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.”
She said Dr Rowley must “take full responsibility if international observers are unable to arrive here in time to ensure proper scrutiny of the election process” and called on him to act immediately to put the necessary arrangements in place.