Keith Rowley’s refusal to invite international election observers to examine the upcoming Local Government elections is indicative of a dictatorial oppressor who is afraid of facing the electorate. The fact is that most people in Trinidad and Tobago do not trust this Rowley Government or the EBC to do the right thing.
The Privy Council recently highlighted the importance of voting in a representative democracy in its landmark decision in Ravi Balgobin Maharaj v the Cabinet and anor  UKPC 17. In paragraph 31 of the judgment, the Board held:
31. The essential characteristic of a representative democracy, whether at a national or local level, is that the representatives are chosen by popular vote. In a modern democracy, such as Trinidad and Tobago, all individuals have the right to participate in the popular vote, subject only to specified conditions and disqualifications.
The UNC questions the independence of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), as its track record is not as “unblemished” as Rowley claims. The behaviour of the PNM is questionable when it comes to free and fair elections.
Some points to support:
1. In the 2015 General Elections, the EBC extended the polls by one hour, which resulted in the filing of Election Petitions. This action on the part of the EBC was ultimately found to be unlawful by the Court.
2. The PNM has a history of postponing Local Government elections and depriving citizens of the right to vote.
3. The Rowley PNM Government acted outside the proper processes in the Tobago House of Assembly elections. By Rowley’s own admission, he instructed the Elections and Boundaries Commission to create additional seats and have the election redone.
4. Rowley boasted about sending EBC “superstars” to observe other people’s elections. However, it must be noted that members of the PNM and EBC had to beat a hasty retreat from Guyana after assisting the APNU in attempting to interfere with election results there.
5. Further, there remain questions regarding EBC Chief Election Officer Fern Narcis-Scope’s impartiality as she was a relative of a former PNM Member of Parliament and has close ties to current PNM MPs.
6. Hundreds of people voted in marginal constituencies without proper verification of identities – no valid identification cards in the 2020 general elections.
7. The PNM has a long history of using paid thugs and the criminal element to intimidate voters in marginal constituencies.
8. It is most concerning that members of the hierarchy of the TTPS and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association are attempting to intimidate the UNC opposition from commenting on public issues implicating the government. We therefore cannot rely on their protection or impartiality.
9. There is no transparency by the EBC in the selection of polling day staff.
10. Rowley’s claims that the PNM “went quietly back to Balisier House” when defeated in elections are untrue. I remind him of the PNM’s refusal to accept the results of the general election in 2010. For decades, and in multiple elections, the PNM accused its opponents of voter padding when faced with massive defeats.
All of this serves as a critical reminder of the need for independent international election observers. Elections must not only be fair, but they must be seen to be fair.
The UNC is of the firm view that international observers are needed to ensure that our election is conducted in a free, fair, and just manner that will reflect the true mandate of the people. The PNM and EBC have a history of questionable behaviour in elections in Trinidad and Tobago.
I again repeat my call for the Government to do the right thing for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and allow international election observers for the incoming local government elections as well as the 2025 general elections.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition