Wednesday 25 November, 2020

PM releases invitations for election observers, Kamla not satisfied

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is questioning whether Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley deliberately sabotaged international observers from coming to witness the August 10 General Election.

The accusation comes after the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on Monday released the letters sent to CARICOM and the Commonwealth requesting election observers.

The OPM also published WhatsApp messages between Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Denis Moses and foreign diplomats, who attempted to arrange the arrival of observer missions in time for the General Election.

CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin La Roque, in an exchange with Moses during the period July 22 to 25, revealed that budgetary provisions were not made for the cost of quarantine.

"I have been advised that the cost of quarantine per member of the electoral observation mission is US$2,500. It is with much regret that I must inform you that we did not make budgetary provisions for the cost of quarantine. Any relief which could be provided in that regard would greatly facilitate the Missions visit."

In the lead up to the General Election, the Office of the Prime Minister had indicated the Government did not offer to cover the costs of the quarantine accommodation to avoid a conflict of interest.

"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."

Meanwhile, in a letter dated July 23 Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC wrote to Moses indicating that it did not seem possible to deploy the mission by July 24.

"We have potential Observers on stand-by, and my officials have made every effort to put in place potential arrangements, including logistical arrangements, hotels bookings, available flights, etc. to attend to this important invitation. Sadly, I understand that a Focal Point has not yet been communicated and this is essential for the deployment of the mission. Given the current circumstances, it does not seem possible to deploy them by Friday 24 July, as there are critical arrangements that should have been made with the Focal Point prior to deploying. I remain committed to deploying a Commonwealth Observer Group if the necessary arrangements and protocols can be agreed."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CARICOM responded on the same day indicating that its Permanent Secretary (Ag.) would be available to be the focal point.

In a Facebook post on Monday, the Opposition Leader accused the Government of deliberately frustrating and sabotaging observer teams via "questionable delays and stalling tactics, to prevent them from coming to T&T."

"Now, these letters show that both organisations had in fact indicated otherwise. They note that Minister Moses had kept delaying giving an answer on the ‘focal point’ when repeatedly asked to so do to by the respective CARICOM and Commonwealth authorities. What all of this essentially suggests is that the Rowley Government deliberately frustrated and sabotaged these crucial observer teams via questionable delays and stalling tactics, to prevent them from coming to T&T."

She further claimed that the election proceeded with a "host of serious irregularities and discrepancies."

Persad-Bissessar said the Prime Minister should have made all necessary arrangements to accommodate the delegations very early on in the year.

"PM Rowley must now say—WHY? He MUST explain his role in this apparent sinister move by his Government to undermine and consequently seriously compromise our democratic election process, which is now tainted and cannot be truly deemed as to have been free and fair. Citizens deserve no less than truth from him for once!"

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