Express Editorial : Daily

WE commend Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for inviting Caricom and the Commonwealth to send observer missions to T&T’s general election of August 10. Since 2000, foreign observer missions have been a standard part of T&T’s election landscape and we see no reason for objecting to them.

We would have thought our democracy was politically mature enough for our leaders to accept such invitations as routine. The fact that UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar found it necessary to make her demand public would suggest otherwise.

Trinidad and Tobago has had a long history of conducting its elections independently and with care.

This is not to say that we have not had our fair share of allegations of electoral theft. The loudest of these followed the introduction of voting machines in the 1961 general election which fuelled such distrust among sections of the electorate that the machines were eventually replaced by the ballot box in 1976 following a successful Opposition boycott against them in 1971.

The more common suspicion here is of voter-padding which in 2000 took on a sinister tone with the police being called in by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to investigate 252 suspicious applications for voter transfers from safe to marginal seats. The flare-up of public fears about electoral fraud prompted the then Panday administration to invite the Commonwealth to send its first-ever election observer mission to Trinidad and Tobago.

In its post-election report, the Commonwealth mission commented that “The conduct of the poll was in many ways an object lesson in how it should be done” and demonstrated “the depth of Trinidad and Tobago’s democratic culture”.

However, that mission’s recommendation that the EBC strengthen its voter education activities is particularly relevant today given the Covid-19 conditions under which next month’s election will be held. The EBC must ensure that its agents, candidate representatives and the electorate are all fully au courant with any change of process. Election day anxiety can turn the smallest infraction into a cause célèbre, especially via social media. On the assumption that every political party and candidate will have batteries of lawyers ready and available to challenge its decisions on-the-spot, the EBC should have its own team of independent and experienced legal minds ready to respond to every situation that arises. We cannot afford a repeat of the interpretation errors that occurred in the Local Government election.

We only have to look at the sorry spectacle of Guyana to appreciate the critical importance of protecting the integrity of our electoral process. No one could have imagined that 18 months after the Granger government collapsed under a no-confidence motion Guyana would still be in a state of flux, without a legitimate government and with the incumbent clinging to office by every means necessary.

By contrast, we in T&T have much to cherish and protect. We urge all aspirants to office and their supporters not to take our electoral system for granted. Equally, we urge the EBC to recognise its responsibility to engage the electorate in a manner that demonstrates its understanding that public trust is a critical factor in its own success.

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Official recognition of the historical importance of the location where the Treasury Building now stands is long overdue. As the place that marks the spot where British Governor Sir George Fitzgerald Hill publicly read out the Proclamation of Emancipation on August 1, 1834, the site is of immeasurable significance to the history of Trinidad and Tobago.

WE celebrated Emancipation Day on August 1, but to my mind, we have not yet fully grasped the broader concept of freedom. In other words we have not, through our education system, formulated a critical pedagogy across our curricula; to foster a knowledge of self, to move beyond who we are, to transform the what- and how, to break with debilitating norms and to name our world. Inherent in all of this is the development of critical thinking skills in the learner and the learning culture.

AS a civic-minded citizen, one piece of legislation I would like to see passed in the Parliament is one that regulates the conduct of political parties and their supporters during an election.

The insistence of the ruling party to hold the general election on August 10 in the midst of a new or second phase of the Covid-19 pandemic leaves many raised eyebrows and even more questions. Since many restrictions or “protocols” have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus or “flatten the curve” of infections, two pertinent issues must be questioned here

IN the early 1970s, the Mighty Composer (Fred Mitchell) composed and sang a calypso entitled “Black Fallacy” in which he showed that many persons today and “from since in the Beginning” continue to use the word “black with a degrading twist,” to denote racism, prejudice and bigotry in their dealings with Africans and African descendants.

This Emancipation Day has brought to mind the fact that there are two types of Afro-Trinidadians. The ones who keep holding on to the history of slavery and keep hoping to receive reparations from England, Spain, France and Holland without giving thought to the fact that the slave trade would never have happened if Africans did not offer their own people for sale.