PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 31, CMC – The leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Kamla Persad Bissessar, says the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has no authority by law to tell voters they must wear masks to vote in the August 10 general election as the country deals with the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Is it going to be the presiding officer who says, you are exhibiting symptoms, you can’t vote? You will put a doctor in every station? What will you do, import them from Cuba?” she told supporters on Thursday night as she questioned the criteria to be used by the EBC in turning voters away from polling stations for exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
She told the virtual meeting in Chaguanas in central Trinidad that the election guidelines can be used to debar UNC voters and “steal the elections.”
“They could just look at you and say you are UNC and say you are exhibiting COVID symptoms…you can’t vote. What madness is this? Again…designed to kill us and steal the elections – politically kill us,” she said, warning that the UNC would pursue the matter of stopping voters without masks, in court if necessary.
“I want to say the EBC cannot legally disenfranchise anyone for not having a mask. I am not saying don’t wear masks, I’m saying it should be optional,” said Persad Bissessar, who is seeking to regain political power after being defeated in the 2015 general election.
“The EBC does not have the power in law. Remember your powers. You want to tell us you don’t have a mask don’t come to vote. The EBC does not have that power. The wearing of the mask should be optional,” she added.
The UNC is contesting 39 of the 41 seats at stake in the election and its main challenge will be the ruling People’s National Movement (ONM) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley.
The UNC leader has blamed the government for failing in its management of COVID-19, saying it was “blaming everyone else for rising COVID cases. They blame nationals returning from overseas and they are even blaming me.”
Persad Bissessar said that the authorities have not tested sufficient people since the pandemic was first detected here in March.
“We should have tested at least 10 per cent (of the population) to get a true picture of our status. We are nowhere near there. They’ve flattened the curve by flattening testing. They have been lying to you for months.”
She advised UNC members to hit the road on and ensure the election machinery is in place for the start of Monday’s special voting exercise because the Government has failed to bring international observers.
“I don’t think it is by chance or accident. I believe it is deliberate that observers are not here and we have to be vigilant on all of the aspects of the voting process.
“Every child knew elections were in 2020 – how come Rowley didn’t know that?” she asked supporters. – CMC