PNM political leader, Dr Keith Rowley (left); and UNC political leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC (right).

There will be no public electoral debates featuring political leaders for the 2020 General Election.

That’s the word from the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission (TTDC), who explains In an official statement on the matter that the current COVID-19 pandemic was one of the key considerations in its decision not to host such a debate, this year.

“The Trinidad & Tobago Debates Commission (TTDC)… wishes to advise that it will not be hosting an electoral debate for the General Election in 2020… Regrettably, however, due the COVID-19 pandemic, there was not enough time to mobilize for this election…” the release states.

The TTDC notes that it has had success with other elections—notably, Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly elections—over the past decade.

It observes that “despite its best efforts it has not been able to coordinate a Leaders’ Debate in the last two general elections…”

“The TTDC has been deliberating on this position since 2019,” the statement reads. “In the national interest and in pursuit of its original objective, the TTDC has held discussions with The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) which has decided that it will work towards developing national debates in the country.”

The Commission adds: “In due course a statement will be made by the TTPBA and the initiative will be launched.”

The Debates Commission says it is proud of its achievement of having “brought three successful debates to the electorate of Trinidad & Tobago and [we] are confident that this is just the beginning”.

The organisation—an independent body formed under the auspices of the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce—remains optimistic that “Leaders’ Debates will eventually become an integral part of our election landscape”.