Observers urged for T & T elections

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: A women’s group wants outside observers to keep a close eye on the voting process when citizens go to the polls next month.

The Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women has called on the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the government of Prime Minister Patrick Manning to request the presence of international election observers and expert teams from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organization of American States (OAS) and CARICOM for the May 24 general election.

Network Director of International Relations, Dr. Kris Rampersad, said this would help to ensure that the integrity of the election processes is sound and indisputable and reinforce the government’s commitment to transparency and democracy.

“Already we are hearing sounds on the hustings of fears of gerrymandering, voter padding and interference and it would be useful that measures be taken to assuage any such doubts that may arise over the election results,” she said.

Rampersad said because Trinidad and Tobago had further committed to the governance practices set by the Commonwealth and the OAS last year, it could request the presence of election observer teams from these institutions “to verify and certify the integrity of our election processes so our democratic record will not be tarnished by questions raised during or subsequent to the 2010 election”.

“It will help ensure that human rights are observed during the conduct of the election,” said Rampersad.

Rampersad also noted that, as a member of the OAS, Trinidad and Tobago subscribes to the Inter-American Charter which provides for electoral observation missions on the request of member states.

The OAS, the Commonwealth and CARICOM have set guidelines for preparation of observers’ reports and presentation of recommendations, as well as the conduct of electoral observation missions. Missions must be requested by the government or the electoral management body, with broad support from civil society and political parties.

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