Story by RENUKA SINGH
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is criticising the United National Congress (UNC) for pushing a “dangerous” narrative with its call for the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) recount.
In his first live interview since claiming victory in the 2020 general elections, Rowley sat with CNC3’s The Morning Brew on Wednesday and decried the UNC for attempting to de-legitimse the Government.
While saying that it was the party’s democratic right to call for a recount, he said there as an “ethnic flavour” to it that was pushing a racial component.
“What the UNC is doing in this approach, 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, not for the first time,” he said.
“What the UNC is doing is telling the East Indian population that they have won the election and that they were cheated by the PNM,” he said.
“There is a very dangerous development taking place here. I accept that recounts are the call of the candidate. What the UNC is doing is to disrupt the process and it is no accident, it is a deliberate strategy which is dangerous to the country,” Rowley said.
“This disruption has a purpose and that purpose is to de-legitimise the Government’s victory and that has a purpose and that purpose is to incite a section of the population.
“The recount is not the issue; they don’t expect anything to change in the recount but by using the recount, there is something else that they are getting done, which is to disrupt the smooth transition from the new Government being sworn in,” he said.
He said that the disruption of the process was a deliberate move to label the Government as illegitimate.
Rowley said that the UNC did the same thing in 2015 when they went to court to challenge five seats. He said the UNC still owed the PNM millions of dollars for that matter.
Rowley said that there was now a “huge undercurrent of racism” on social media.
“That is the purpose of this because the UNC leadership is fuelling to the East Indian population that this is not a victory of the PNM and that the election has in fact been stolen by PNM underhandedness,” he said.
Rowley also denied that the PNM had anything to do with boundary lines which could have helped the PNM win.
He said that the EBC used a specific formula, enshrined in the constitution as guidelines for establishing constituency boundaries.
“But you have people in this country telling the nation that this is something structured by the PNM to give the PNM an advantage. This is dangerous,” he said.
On the issue of international observers, Rowley said that once the elections were called, he reached out to Commonwealth Secretariat and to the Caricom asking for observers.
“They initially indicated that they would see, then eventually in the conversation, as the days passed, they came up on some difficulty that allowed them not to be able to,” he said.
He said that Caricom was only able to find three observers because people did not want to move.
“Also, once they got to Trinidad, they did not want to come and go into quarantine,” he said.
When pressed further, Rowley said that Caricom could not find people who were willing to “pick up themselves” from another country and then go into quarantine.
Rowley also said that with only three volunteers, Caricom felt that they needed more observers to be useful.
“There was nobody,” he said.
Rowley also said at the Commonwealth Secretariat, there was the financial element.
“The financial requirements were not in their remit at the time. I saw somebody criticising that,” he said.
“I don’t know if you all are aware of what is happening at the Commonwealth Secretariat, all the main funders have withdrawn their funding, England, Australia, the U.K, New Zealand,” he said.
He said that there were observers in the country back in 2015 and the UNC still challenged the results.
Rowley said that the UNC’s action pre-election would have been flagged by the observers.
“You see the fridge and stove and cash that went out before election, we should be quarrelling about that,” he said.
He said that however how long the process takes, the last Government to be sworn in remains in place. Rowley said that the recount now prevents him from swearing in a new Cabinet and said that the PNM manifesto has “certain commitments” which require “adjustments to the Cabinet”.