Trinidad and Tobago’s General Elections on 10 August is likely to proceed without international electoral observers, after the government revealed that its Covid-19 restrictions proved to be a stumbling block.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he ‘extended invitations’ on 9 July to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and Commonwealth to send observers for the elections, after United National Congress (UNC) political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed foreboding in the wake of electoral issues in Guyana.
However, Trinidad and Tobago’s Covid-19 protocols mandate that visitors agree to a 14 day quarantine on arrival. And, according to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister, the deadline for such an arrangement was 24 July—which passed, two days ago, without any definitive word from either body.
The problem, according to the press statement, was neither body was willing to foot the bill for such an extended stay while the Trinidad and Tobago government felt it improper to pick up the tab.
“Both organisations have advised of their inability to meet the cost associated with the 14 day quarantine period required for entry into Trinidad and Tobago,” stated the Office of the Prime Minister, “which is an integral part of our management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically, they cited constraints due to financial strictures that disallow them from meeting this cost.
“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.
“Requests have been made by Trinidad and Tobago to potential benefactors within the Commonwealth community to cover these costs. To date, no definitive positive results have been obtained and the timely arrival has expired—if persons were to follow the established mandatory protocol.”
The government has not ruled out the possibility of still having international observers for the 10 August elections. But any future arrangement would have to be done with the blessing of Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram.
“In the event that any alternative arrangement for travel becomes available,” stated the release, “such requests will be subject to conditions laid down by the Chief Medical Officer in the most facilitatory and safe way.
“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to persevere in attempting to secure the necessary resources and modalities to encourage the arrival of at least one Election Observation Mission.
“At this time, it looks like only a Caricom mission might be available if health protocols can be met.”