Trinidad PM Predicts Win In Election With Heavy Turnout Despite Pandemic

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley, of the People’s National Movement (PNM) party, shows the indelible ink mark on his finger after casting his vote at a polling station in Westmoorings, Diego Martin region, west of Port-of-Spain, on August 10, 2020 amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. – Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s governing People’s National Movement (PNM) party is expected to hold onto power as Trinidad and Tobago citizens head to the polls in Monday’s general election. (Photo by STR / AFP)


Prime Minister Keith Rowley predicted victory for his ruling People’s National Movement in Trinidad and Tobago’s general election Monday, with turnout strong despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Scores of voters remained in line waiting to cast their ballots as polls closed but officials have said they will be allowed to vote.

Rowley urged supporters to stay away from the PNM party’s headquarters when celebrating.

“We do not want a good election campaign to be spoiled by large gatherings which can cause the spread of the virus,” Rowley said after voting.

“Celebrate in small groups at a friend’s home, as I know there will be reason to celebrate, but we must be responsible at all times.”

In the most recent opinion poll in the island nation off Venezuela, the PNM was five percentage points ahead of the opposition United National Congress (UNC), led by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

After casting her ballot, Persad-Bissessar urged voters not to be deterred by long queues and a process slowed by health safety measures.

“In some stations they are saying it is very slow,” she said.

“The feedback I am getting is that in some stations the turnout is very high but some people are turning back because of long lines. I just urge everyone: do your civic duty, cast your vote.”

First results are due late Monday.

For many of the one million voters, the coronavirus pandemic and corruption were two key issues on the campaign trail.

Rowley, in power since 2015, announced on Wednesday the closure of all primary schools after several pupils were infected.

But facemasks were not compulsory in ballot stations on voting day.

Rowley praised his party’s campaign in difficult circumstances caused by coronavirus restrictions.

“Every election is important but I think this election is particularly important because it heralds a period… that is difficult for the country,” he said.

– Voting along ethnic lines –
The twin-island republic is a first-past-the-post parliamentary democracy modeled on former colonial power Britain.

Polls opened at 6:00 am with social distancing and hand sanitizing measures in place, and closed 12 hours later.

Voters will elect the 41 members of the House of Representatives with the winning party’s leader becoming prime minister.

Among the candidates standing for seats is disgraced former FIFA vice president Austin “Jack” Warner, who is battling extradition to the United States to face charges of racketeering and conspiracy as part of a global graft probe into world football’s governing body.

He is one of 17 single candidates from separate political parties contesting the polls alongside the two main parties.

In total, there are 146 candidates from 19 political parties, some 30% of whom are women.

All but one of the 41 seats in the 2015 election were won by either the PNM or UNC. The PNM ousted the UNC in 2015 by 23 seats to 17.

Coronavirus cases have been increasing in the build-up to the election, with 67 people testing positive in the last two weeks.

Rowley has promised not to re-impose lockdown measures but has said bars and restaurants could be closed to prevent the virus spreading.

Many blame the new cases on the illegal trafficking of economic migrants from Venezuela. However, no Venezuelan national has been confirmed as positive among the new COVID-19 cases.

The government has received praise regionally and internationally for its handling of the pandemic which has helped it enjoy a high approval rating.

But in diverse Trinidad and Tobago, politics remains largely divided along ethnic lines. The majority of PNM supporters are of African descent with the UNC popular among those of a South Asian background.



Support Our Efforts To Check Oil Sector Corruption, Buhari Tells Commonwealth

powerPresident Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has urged the international community to support his government’s efforts to curb corruption in the oil and gas industry.

The President made the demand on Saturday at a group meeting of Commonwealth leaders on corruption held in Malta and chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain.

He said that corruption in the oil sector and outright theft of Nigeria’s crude oil had been exacerbated by the culture of impunity which reigned under previous administrations.

The President further stated that corruption in the sector had also thrived because of the ease of transferring illicit funds abroad and the institutional protection given to corrupt officials in the past.

“Now that we have the political will to stop impunity, we need the cooperation and assistance of the international community.

“We must all work together to compel multinational oil companies, international financial institutions and international shipping lines to stop aiding and abetting corruption in the oil sector in Nigeria,” President Buhari told the gathering which included the leaders of Australia, Canada, Singapore, Malta, Sri Lanka, Botswana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Need To Reject Corruption

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Prime Minister Cameron said that the Commonwealth and the international community must do more to fight corruption and promote good governance.

“We care passionately about this issue of fighting corruption. In my view, this issue needs to have a much higher billing on the international agenda, not just because fighting corruption is right in itself, but because all the other things we want to achieve as countries and members of the Commonwealth depend on our success in doing so.

“If we want fair economic growth, we need to reject corruption. If we want to see fair and sustainable development, we need to deal with corruption. I think this is an absolutely vital issue. It is an issue for all of us because so much of the money stolen from developing countries is hidden in developed countries.

“So dealing with money laundering, dealing with beneficial ownership and making sure we stop stolen money being hidden away in developed countries is absolutely vital,” the British Prime Minister said.

In an earlier meeting, President Buhari had asked for the support of the Commonwealth in the war on terror currently going in Nigeria’s north-east and other countries that may have been affected by the scourge of terrorism.

NNPC to partner Trinidad and Tobago company on gas processing plant

Nigeria and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are to strengthen the existing collaboration in energy, technical, cultural, educational and scientific cooperation.

This was the high point of the bilateral discussion between President Goodluck Jonathan and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the two days state visit by President Jonathan to the Caribbean nation.

It was revealed that the Ministry of Energy Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago together with other stakeholders are already working on a proposed gas processing plant under the technical energy assistant project with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to harness the country’s huge gas reserves.

Also 57 young Nigerians have been trained in shield maintenance, power welding, automotive service and industrial mechanical maintenance as well as other related courses from the National Energy Skills center at the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation.

The Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Tertiary Education and skills training also made a commitment to establish a similar skills center in Nigeria.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar who spoke on other areas of cooperation between the countries, noted that the state visit of Jonathan was indicative of the government’s commitment to the exchange of high level visits that started in 1964 when former prime minister, Dr. Eric Williams, visited Nigeria as part of an African tour to signal Trinidad and Tobago’s desire to re-connect with the continent as a newly independent nation.

She said that commitment was reinforced in 2008 when Trinidad and Tobago embarked on the Africa Energy Initiative, offering technical consultation and assistance in the energy sector to several African states.

She noted that the initiative is currently under revision in order to improve efficiency for all stakeholders.

The Prime Minister noted that the island nation will continue to collaborate with Nigeria in energy and other related projects, adding that she looks forward to welcoming delegations from Nigeria to visit Trinidad and Tobago for exchanges in this area.

President Jonathan was the special guest of honor at the this year’s Kambule street procession marking the 174 years of the emancipation of Trinidad and Tobago which was held amidst pomp and pageantry.

President Jonathan departed the Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago to Jamaica Thursday morning.

Jonathan off to The Caribbean

 President Goodluck Jonathan early Tuesday morning departed the country for a four day working visit to the Caribbean Islands of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

According to a statement the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati on Monday, the president will be attending the Emancipation Day of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica’s Independence Anniversary Celebration during the trip.

Before embarking on the trip the president had a private talk with the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his residence. Details of the meeting were not disclosed to journalists.

Mourning for Ghana

Also President Goodluck Jonathan has recalled the shock and sadness he felt when he learnt of the death of President John Atta-Mills of Ghana, last week.

President Jonathan was speaking at State House to a five-man delegation from Ghana, led by Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, who brought a special message from the nation’s new leader President John Dramane Mahama.

Dr Mills, passed away last week at the age of 68, a few hours after he fell ill from throat cancer and was rushed to a Military Hospital.

President Jonathan said Nigeria would be represented at late President Atta Mills’s funeral at the highest level, adding that an official delegation would be sent to convey the country’s condolence before the burial.

The President assured President Mahama of Nigeria’s continued support and cooperation, stating that ‘Nigeria will continue to work with Ghana on bilateral, regional, continental and global issues’.

Earlier, Alhaji Mumuni, had delivered a special message from President John Mahama and expressed appreciation for the concern and love shown to Ghana by President Jonathan and the people of Nigeria at this time of sorrow.