OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the UNC is ready for the August 10 general election and will present its full-slate of candidates on Sunday, speaking with reporters outside the Red House, Port of Spain on Friday minutes after the Prime Minister named the election date.
She said, “I’m very happy a date has been named. I think the country is just waiting to exhale. We’ve had five years of brutality, five years of neglect, five years of suffering and especially within the last year I think it has become really, really bad. Let the people decide.”
She was “very excited and very happy” at news of the poll date.
“Our troops have been on the ground for quite a while now. In fact last night we had a meeting.
“I plan to name all my candidates this weekend, on Sunday. I still have a few meetings to do tomorrow (Saturday) with respect to those who will be fighting and those who will not be fighting seats.
“So I’m very happy and we look forward to elections.”
Persad-Bissessar said the five-week campaign period is longer than in 2010.
“Every election in law you are given five weeks, but we knew it was coming. It was just the date, when. Whether it was August 10, 17 or 24.
“I predicted, in our strategy meetings, it would be some time in August.”
She said an August date was likely to facilitate Parliament’s debate on the budget in September. “So I’m excited but not anxious.”
She was asked how covid19 restrictions on gatherings will affect the hustings.
“We have already started campaigning using the virtual forum. We may have to continue doing that.
“But I suspect at some point during the month of July, there will be more opening up to come. I think even the borders may be open up sometime in July.
“My concern is the EBC (Elections and Boundaries Commission) what will be their new normal, what are the restrictions, what are the guidelines for actual election day, not just campaigning.”
She eagerly awaited guidelines and whether covid19 restrictions will be lifted.
While expecting restrictions will be eased, she said virtual campaigning was cheaper than live campaigning.
“I think this election will be won one-to-one on the ground, which is what we’ve been doing in the marginals. Our marginal candidates have been there quite a while now.
“They’ve been out there in the field and that’s how this campaign has run. You will see in the local government election that was the kind of campaign we ran, not up in the air (via the airwaves) as we didn’t have that kind of money.
“So that air campaign doesn’t win. What wins is that human touch, on the ground, meeting and speaking with electors.”
While the PNM had chosen its final candidate on Thursday with Keith Scotland for Port of Spain South, she said this made no difference to her presenting her slate on Sunday.
“One day? One day before mine? One day doesn’t make a difference.”
Persad-Bissessar said the stranding of nationals outside TT was a reason to vote against the Government. “There are many thousands of people out there who will be disenfranchised if they aren’t allowed to enter TT.”
She hoped the borders would be opened in July.
“The second concern I have is with respect to election observers. It is vital given that right next door we saw what happened in Guyana.” She called on the Government to invite elections observers to TT, to give a semblance of fair elections.
Asked about proxy voting to facilitate citizens abroad if the borders are not opened by polling day, she said to do this the law would have to be changed, but a closed Parliament cannot now do this. “So there’ll be no opportunity to change the law to allow proxy voting, foreign voting or overseas voting.” This makes it more vital for the Government to re-open the borders ahead of the polls, she said.
“That’s what I think they’ll do. Any sensible government that’s what they will do, not only because of the election but because what’s happening around the world.”
She said Barbados is opening mid-month.
“That will be another reason why he will lose the election, if he keeps the borders closed.”
Told no campaign finance reform will occur before polling day, she quipped, this election will also come with no local government reform nor Tobago self-governance reform.
“They were all promises that have not been kept. They are all reasons to vote against this Government.”