There won’t be any Commonwealth observers coming for Trinidad and Tobago’s General Election on August 10 – but there's the possibility of Caricom observers, Prime Minister Keith Rowley indicated on Friday night.
Rowley was replying to a query about the observers during the People’s National Movement’s “Friday Night Virtual Lime with Dr Rowley” presentation, spotlighting Rowley.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had written to him recently asking for election observers from various forums, including the Commonwealth, Caricom and Carter Centre. Rowley immediately fired off letters to the Commonwealth and Caricom requesting delegations.
Persad-Bissessar again raised the issue on Friday, noting the election was just over two weeks away and pointing out the observers would need to get into T&T by this weekend to undergo the mandatory quarantine and get out in time to observe the election.
But on Friday during the Facebook live event, the PM said the Commonwealth had replied saying they didn’t think they would be able to come because of the cost. He noted that quarantining a delegation for the required two-week period involved costs. It was also difficult to get to T&T since there are no commercial flights currently due to the lockdown of the borders due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since they hadn’t arrived by Friday, he said, “We may not have a Commonwealth team.”
He said Government couldn’t even say it could assist in bringing in the team in the event they did a favourable report and then the PNM might be accused of paying for the team. “We’re not doing that …,” he said.
He said Government thought it could ask a third party to assist the team and is talking to some, but hasn’t gotten an answer. He said if the Commonwealth team had to get here, that should have been by this Friday, in order to complete a two-week quarantine and be able to move around for election day.
But he didn’t think they could come later “unless they sit in a room and monitor us on TV”.
Rowley said Government also invited Caricom observers and Caricom’s secretariat said three countries had agreed to provide a team.
“So we’re waiting to hear what that means. The secretariat will now ask each country to send a representative,” Rowley said.
However, he said the Caricom team will also have to get here by this weekend. But he said if T&T doesn’t get them, “We’re no banana republic and overly troublesome – we conduct ourselves. Unless someone intends to misbehave,”
But Rowley said he’d have liked observers to be here to see what they do, admitting that "sometimes they make interesting comments if you have to make adjustments”.