United National Congress (UNC) incumbent for Princes Town Barry Padarath has completed and filed the final documents required to return home and hopes to be back in the country on Wednesday.
Pardarath is still in Florida and was granted an exemption to come back since June 16 but with no commercial flights, Padarath was having a tough time entering the country.
However, he now has a space on a chartered flight which is also bringing in another 12 Trinidadians and is expected to be granted entry on Wednesday.
“I have made an application to the Ministry of National Security to come in on Wednesday but the company is still awaiting the approval from the Ministry of National Security,” he said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Padarath was screened virtually for the Princes Town seat and does not know if he was successful.
The party has been naming the successful candidates slowly but with the general election in five weeks, insiders said that the pace has “ramped up significantly.”
All 17 incumbent MPs have already been screened and are awaiting the selection notice.
“I have been advised that Mrs (Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be naming all the candidates in the coming days. As far as I am aware there has been no formal announcement for Princes Town,” he said.
Party general secretary Dave Tancoo told Guardian Media all outstanding candidates are expected to be named later today (Sunday).
Padarath said he was not surprised that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the election date on Friday or the short time frame given.
“It was not a surprise because the election is due. One would have thought though that there would have been more answers forthcoming in terms of the level of preparedness for this election in terms of COVID-19, in terms of the borders being re-opened, what would be the position of citizens who are outside of the country, wishing to participate as a candidate or an elector,” he said.
He also questioned how the elections would take place considering the restrictions in place because of COVID-19.
If Padarath is allowed in the country on Wednesday, he would have to be quarantined for 14 days and with nomination day carded for July 17, he would not be able to file his papers.
“There is a provision where every prospective candidate is allowed to appoint an election agent, so therefore, as far as I am aware, it is something that I’ve been doing some research into, there is a provision for an election agent to perform the necessary document filing and that sort of thing,” he said.
Padarath said that even if he was in the country and in quarantine, once selected, he would have a representative file his nomination papers.
He said that even if he is not selected, he would remain committed to the success of the UNC.
“No one is bigger than the party, I’ve seen in the past where someone doesn’t get a seat and they defect and criticise the party leadership. I have no intention of doing that, my loyalty is to the party and Mrs Persad-Bissessar,” he said.
Padarath recalled that in the 2015 election, he was the last candidate to be selected and only had 15 days to campaign.
“I’m not new to the pace,” he said.
Padarath said he has been monitoring the growing COVID-19 numbers in Florida and has been staying indoors for most of his time away. He is especially cautious because of the growing number of children contracting the virus as he wants to keep his one-year-old safe.