Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the borders will not be reopened to allow nationals outside the country the chance to return home to vote in the August 10 general elections.
Rowley made the comment moments after announcing the date in Parliament on Friday, after he was asked by reporters if the Government would consider the move with the COVID-19 virus still ravaging countries worldwide.
“Well, the borders are influenced by our health conditions and as we go towards the future the borders are closed and we would have brought in as many as we can and we continue until it is opened but it is not a condition for having an election,” Rowley said.
The borders have been closed since March as the Government imposed travel bans as a means to mitigate against the spread of the virus.
Rowley also expressed confidence that his People’s National Movement would be able to win the election despite the short time they have to mobilise supporters.
Asked if he felt the recent protests across the country over the police killings of three Morvant men could overshadow the party’s campaign efforts, Rowley said, “There is a time and place for everything and I hope we would take serious things seriously. The protests were sporadic, we have gone past that now and we are on to something else now, elections are important and I trust the population will treat elections seriously.”
United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar meanwhile said she was excited at the date.
“I think the country is waiting to exhale. We’ve had five years of brutality. Five years of neglect. Five years of suffering,” Persad-Bissessar said outside the Red House in Port-of-Spain.
Also expressing confidence in her party’s ability to succeed at the polls, she said her team will be ready.
“I plan to name all my candidates by this weekend. I will name all my candidates by Sunday,” she said assertively.
She denied suggestions that the campaign will be a short one, saying the 2010 campaign was shorter. However, she said her first concern was that the Elections and Boundaries Commission had not shared their new guidelines with her party.
Asked if she still had concerns about the date in the context of thousands of nationals being stuck outside the country with the borders still closed, she said, “I still have that concern. There are thousands of people out there who may be disenfranchised if they are not allowed to enter the country.”
However, she expressed confidence that the borders would be opened up in mid-July given what other Caribbean islands have done in opening up.