Elections Commission ‘Ready to Deliver’ Despite Absence of International Observers

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 7, CMC – A senior official of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) says while the organisation is “saddened” by the lack of international observers for Monday’s general elections, it insists that “we are ready to deliver.”

Chief Elections Officer, Mrs Fern Narcis-Scope, speaking on I955FM radio on Friday, said that the absence of observers places the EBC more under the spotlight, but insisted “we are ready to deliver.”

“As I have indicated in a couple of other interviews, myself, members of the Commission, senior members of staff, we have all served on observer missions in different countries over the globe and I, myself was part of that initial Guyana observer team and went back as part of the high level delegation,” she told radio listeners.

“So I understand what international observers bring in terms of the credibility and stamp of approval they can put on your elections. We are a little saddened that things did not work out.

“A lot of these individuals are our peers and experts in election management. I am somewhat disappointed. I was looking forward to meeting with colleagues and hearing their thoughts on what I have put in place and what the Commission has put in place, but nonetheless we are ready to deliver and I look back to the feedback from the public, the media and the political parties as to how they thought we had performed,” she added.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said that he had extended invitations to the Commonwealth and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to observe the elections.

But both indicated that it would have been an expensive venture given that their members would have had to arrive here at least two weeks ahead of the polls and placed into quarantine as part of the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Rowley said he did not share the sentiment of the government footing the bill for the observers visit here since it would have given an impression that it could have been construed that they would be doing the bidding of his People’s National Movement (PNM) in the election.

But the leader of the main opposition United National Congress UNC), Kamla Persad Bissessar, said that Rowley was hoodwinking the population given that Commonwealth leaders at their summit in 2028 had issued a statement indicating that the “costs of each observer mission are covered by the Secretariat.

“No funds are sought from the host member country being observed…”

“Rowley’s actions can now be viewed as an attempt to not only stall the process so that Observer teams would not have enough time to enter the country and undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine, but a deliberate attempt to hoodwink the population mere days before the election, and avoid scrutiny,” she said.

The Chief Elections Officer said that every precaution is being taken to ensure that voters cast their ballots in a secure environment given the COVID-19 situation and that there had been an increase in the number of people who had applied to be treated as special electors.

She said persons who were in quarantine between July 6 and Nomination Day on July 17, were also able to apply to be treated as special elector.

“So we did have a number of persons who applied. Some of those persons have since exited quarantine but must be treated as special electors and they have up until Sunday to go to the office of their respective Returning Officer to vote.”

The EBC official has also declined commenting on possible legal action being taken by one political party that is claiming that its symbol is not correct as well as moves by the PNM to have a candidate of the UNC barred from the election for filing a wrong document.

There are 146 candidates representing 19 political parties contesting the elections. The PNM is the only party contesting all 41 seats in the Parliament, while the UNC is contesting 39 seats.

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