Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a sitting of the Lower House in Parliament.

Photo courtesy The Office of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

The 2020 general election campaigning will be put on hold as the two major political parties, the People’s National Movement (PNM) and United National Congress (UNC), have cancelled planned political meetings.

The PNM issued a news release stating that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s walkabout/national public indoor meeting scheduled for today in Barataria has been cancelled.

It added that the party’s annual Baptist Liberation Day celebration, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 21, has also been cancelled.

The PNM said it continues to be guided by the directives given to the population at large by the Ministry of Health, and “we will continually update members, the media and the national population about the status of our meetings, walkabouts and events”.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the UNC’s Monday night forum, which was scheduled to take place in Aranjuez on Monday, will be cancelled.

The former prime minister also called for calm as Trinidad recorded its first coronavirus case on Thursday.

She urged citizens to follow the guidelines of public health officials in taking steps to protect themselves and their families.

In a news release, Persad-Bissessar stated that the UNC is extremely concerned over the very “lethargic response” to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“The Rowley regime ignored ample calls to treat the matter as urgent and to take proactive measures. True to form, the Government buried its head in the sand, ignoring the risks, and are now scrambling to put measures in place to deal with it,” she said.

“This latest announcement of a confirmed case of COVID-19 shows how futile the present Rowley Government’s attempts have been at keeping our nation safe. Our citizens’ safety and security have been compromised once again by this failed administration and their lacklustre approaches to matters of national and global importance,” the release added.

Persad-Bissessar said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has again shown his “incompetence and lack of care for the health and safety of citizens” as she noted the Opposition repeatedly urged the Government to take proactive measures, all of which fell on deaf ears, with the minister repeatedly downplaying the threat.

The release noted several matters of definite urgent importance on COVID-19 were raised by the Opposition to discuss the Government’s preparedness but these were denied and the UNC was accused of being “alarmist”.

“Given this administration’s track record of failure and incompetence in every sector, we have no confidence in their ability to manage this issue. There is no doubt that if this situation was better managed by the Government from the onset, we would have still been without any COVID-19 cases within our nation today,” stated the release.

Persad-Bissessar assured that the UNC will support all efforts to curb the spread of this virus, and the party will assist where it can.

“We urge citizens to take heed of the advisories issued by the authorities and to take precautions, but to desist from panicking. Let us be responsible, and each do our part to ensure that the virus is contained,” she said.

While the UNC has criticised the Government’s preparedness, PNM public relations officer Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing, in a release which informed about the cancellation of the Prime Minister’s meeting, commended the Government for its work.

“...Thank goodness that we have an incredibly responsible, responsive and proactive PNM Government, calmly and ably navigating us through these challenges,” she said.