The Opposition UNC appears intent on following Guyana’s lead in instigating a legal battle if the results of the upcoming 2020 elections are not to its liking.
And this makes it even more imperative for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to do everything in its power to help bring to an end a deteriorating situation in Guyana that could become for regional countries like T&T a retrograde template for consummating the electoral process.
The UNC has already signalled its intention to turn into an election issue the Government’s precautionary decision to keep the country’s borders closed as a means of protecting the population from imported Covid infections.
Meanwhile, the Government is increasingly, but carefully, approving exemptions allowing stranded citizens back into the country on the condition that they subject themselves to the State quarantine process.
The numbers of persons so approved have been such that they neither overwhelm the capacity of the quarantine facilities nor pose a threat to the efficacy of the country’s health care system.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Keith Rowley has made it clear that opening the borders to allow the return of nationals to vote is not a consideration for the Government.
But Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has adopted a contrary position. She sees the border closure not as a sober response to the pandemic, but as a “shameful and disgraceful act” that denies thousands of citizens their right to return home and takes away their right to vote.
And she warns that if the election date called precedes the opening of the borders, she would challenge the decision in court.
It is to be noted that the Government’s estimate of people with a T&T passport residing outside of the country is in the order of 300,000.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar has shown she is not averse to trying to get the courts to overturn the valid results of elections. And she is not fazed by failure.
In November 2015, the Court of Appeal dismissed her petition challenging the 2015 election results in six constituencies. The UNC had argued that a one-hour extension to voting hours decreed by the Election and Boundaries Commission to offset the inclement weather that impeded the voting process was in breach of the rules, and that the election result should be overturned in the six constituencies, where the PNM won by relatively narrow majorities.
It seems that the ultimate goal of the Opposition Leader is to have the election results she fears in 2020 tied up in a similar quilt of legal twists and turns that have made a mockery of the Guyana electoral process.
Yesterday marked four months since Guyana held its general election and that country is still unable to declare a clear winner in a land with an ethnic divide similar to T&T.
The impasse that is now before the CCJ overshadows what has been a high stakes election with Guyana being on the verge of an economic boom, thanks to the recent discovery of massive oil reserves.
If even it means tapping the expertise and experience of a man like Edwin Carrington, the former Caricom secretary general, who spent 18 years in Guyana promoting the integration aspirations of the region, T&T cannot afford to be oblivious to the sad state of affairs affecting its brother Caricom neighbour.
As the saying goes, when your neighbour’s house is on fire, it’s time to wet yours.