If election observers do not arrive in Trinidad and Tobago today, there would be no observers for the August 10 general election.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said on Friday night that Commonwealth observers will not be coming, but the possibility still exists for Caricom observers to be present.
However, Rowley said he is not worried if observers are not able to attend as the country is no “banana republic” and is quite capable of conducting itself.
Rowley was speaking during a virtual “lime” event broadcast on his Facebook page on Friday night.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had requested that election observers be present, and Rowley previously indicated he had sent letters to Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, formally inviting them to send observers to T&T.
But with Covid-19 restrictions in place, the observers would be required to spend 14 days in quarantine upon their arrival.
This means the latest they could arrive is today to be out of quarantine in time for the polls on August 10.
Conflict of interest to bring in team
Questioned on the issue on Friday night, Rowley said the Commonwealth had indicated they would not be able to attend because of the cost.
He said there would have been significant cost to quarantine the delegation at a hotel for two weeks.
Rowley added there are currently no commercial flights operating due to the closure of the country’s borders and, as a result, the delegation would have difficulty getting to T&T.
Rowley said the Government could not take it upon itself to bring the team to T&T as it could be considered a conflict of interest.
“Because if the team does a report and it is favourable, you will have people saying, ‘Well, the Government paid for the team or the Government put them up in a hotel’...so, we are not doing that.
“We thought maybe we could ask a third party to help the Commonwealth Association office. We talked to a couple, and we so far have not got an answer as to whether that could be done.... So it appears as though we may not have a Commonwealth team,” he said.
Rowley said the Caricom Secretariat had responded, saying three Caribbean countries had agreed to provide observers to the team.
If they do not arrive by today, then no observers would be present for the election.
But Rowley said he was not disturbed by this.
“We’re no banana republic and overly troublesome. We conduct ourselves, unless someone intends to misbehave, and we know how to deal with that.
“I would have liked the observers to be here just to see what we do, and sometimes, they do make interesting comments that allow you to make adjustments if you have to.”
Rowley’s virtual lime event showed a more casual side to the PM as he interacted with host Hans Des Vignes and a number of guests for over two and a half hours.
During the lime, Rowley sat down to chat with young entrepreneurs, artists, entertainers and other guests, and shared anecdotes about his life, including his secondary school dreams of becoming a journalist before “accidentally” falling into politics.
The PM also sampled marshmallow chow, talked about his favourite People’s National Movement (PNM) campaign songs, tried on clothes and showed off his tassa skills.