PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley on Wednesday warned of plans by the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) to delegitimize the victory of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) as he awaits the outcome of several recounts before announcing his new Cabinet following Monday’s general election.
Rowley, speaking on a television programme here, said that while it is within the constitutional right of candidates to seek a recount in any election, the present situation is not what it appears to be.
“There is a very dangerous development taking place here….there are three things the UNC is doing, one is to disrupt the process and this is not accidental, it is a deliberate strategy which is dangerous to this country”.
He said by disrupting the process, the UNC is preventing “ a smooth flow of the country’s governance system” noting that his new administration would have been sworn in on Wednesday “had those recounts not been called”.
The Communications Manager at the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), Bobbi Rogers, confirmed that the UNC had requested “general recounts” in St. Joseph, Tunapuna, Toco/Sangre Grande, La Horquetta/Talparo and San Fernando West.
The leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Watson Duke has requested a recount in the Tobago East seat he lost to the PNM’s Ayanna Webster-Roy.
The recount began on Tuesday and EBC officials say they expect that given it is a “general” recount, the exercise could take a few days to be completed.
The UNC leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar has said she will not concede defeat and the party during a news conference on Tuesday, hinted at the absence of international observers as a factor in its defeat.
Rowley told television viewers that “this disruption has a purpose and that purpose is to delegitimize the government’s victory.
“That has a purpose and that purpose is to incite a section of the population. What the UNC is doing by this approach where you have a difference of two or three thousand votes and you calling for a recount, it is to tell the population, who support them that they have been cheated.”
Rowley said that this is not the first time such a strategy had been employed, recalling that in 2015 the party had been telling the “population that followed them they had been cheated, they went to court , they challenged five seats that were won even better than the two they had won…
“They exclude those two, they came to the court and for four years they had attempted to get the court to overturn in that futile process. They still owe the PNM millions of dollars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) for that legal challenge. But what they were doing was laying the foundation and because it has an ethic flavour to it, it is dangerous.
“What the UNC is doing is telling the East Indian population that they have won the election, but they were cheated by the PNM. You just have to go to social media to see the effect of that. A huge undercurrent of racism is now the outcome of this election and that is the purpose of this because the UNC leadership is fuelling to the East Indian population that this is not a legitimate PNM government and that the election has in fact been stolen by PNM underhandness”.
Rowley heads the Afro-based PNM, while Persad Bissessar, heads the Indo-based UNC.
During his television appearance, Rowley said he saw a University lecturer here “describing the UNC defeat and ascribing it to PNM organising the boundaries of seats so that the PNM will always win elections”,
He dismissed the statement by the lecturer, reminding viewers that the PNM had lost elections in the past including the notorious 1986 poll, when the party won only three seats.
“This is dangerous and if you don’t believe that I am telling you go on social media and see what is happening there,” he said.
Rowley defended his decision to announce the PNM’s victory on Monday night, saying that the figures had been certified by the Returning Officers, were EBC personnel, whose signatures gave legitimacy to the process.
Meanwhile, at least three Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have extended congratulations to Rowley on his second consecutive victory at the polls.
Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell said “the results show that the people of Trinidad and Tobago are confident in Dr. Rowley’s leadership abilities, and are looking to you for continued direction to steer the country further along the path of development.
“With the support of his Cabinet and people, I am confident Dr. Rowley will succeed in pushing forward the country’s agenda, so that everyone can benefit,” he added.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said he has taken note of the new mandate given to the PNM telling Rowley “we wish you, your team and the people of Trinidad and Tobago great success throughout this new term and we look forward to working together to build a more united and prosperous region”.
St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr.Timothy Harris said that he was looking “forward to Trinidad and Tobago’s continuing progress and harmonious cooperation at the bilateral level within CARICOM and beyond”:.