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Flashback: PPP leader Watson Duke speaks with Guardian Media at Crown Point, Tobago,

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

Political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Watson Duke, has called on the Prime Minister to invite independent observers to oversee the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.

In a video posted to social media, Duke said he wanted Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to write to Caricom, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and several other bodies to request international observers.

In January, after the THA election, the PDP won six of the 12 seats and the People’s National Movement won the other six, leaving the Assembly in a deadlock. The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) subsequently created three new electoral districts in Tobago, bringing the total to 15 seats.

The THA elections are expected to be held sometime within the next three months.

“These elections are very divisive, they are very tight- as we know we currently have a six-six for the 12 seats,” Duke said yesterday.

He said with the addition of three new electoral districts, there will be some confusion among voters.

“These seats could go any way and persons will be voting for the first time under the different electoral districts, the names have somewhat been changed and it will cause a certain level of confusion in the minds of the people and an opportunity for someone to steal the elections,” Duke said.

He said he hopes the PNM would not “partake” in stealing the election.

“We hope that they (PNM) are not aided and abetted by unscrupulous persons who monitor these boxes that are used for holding of votes and we also hope that the Prime Minister would adhere to our request.”

Duke said this is not the first time his party has called for independent observers to be present. He said a similar request was sent last September ahead of the January election but it was ignored by the Prime Minister.

He said the request had been sent to Rowley’s email address but it bounced back. Duke said it was also sent to one of the PM’s assistants via WhatsApp and a copy would be hand-delivered yesterday.

He said he was making every effort to ensure their request reached the PM before he announced the election date.

“The people of Tobago are anything but passive. Where this election is concerned, they are very much aggressive and they want a decisive win- some will want the PNM, some will want the PDP, the last one showed six-six,” Duke said.

He said the advanced request would allow the PM to put all the requirements in place. Duke said the PDP was also willing to assist in ensuring the election is fair.

“We want this to be publicised because we will not take lightly, we will not take lightly any type of corruption involved in making the PNM the victors of this election to our demise when we know for a fact there is corruption involved,” Duke said.

He said the PDP wants the process to be fair and orderly.

“If the PNM win the election, they win the election but they must not lose the election and bring some secret ballot box from elsewhere with the votes all PNM and drop it in and say, look we won the seat. We would not accept that and I am putting it out there now, the Tobago populace will not accept such evil and downright corrupt defeat,” he said.

Duke said a copy of the request was sent to President Paula-Mae Weekes and its receipt was acknowledged.