I am honoured to serve as chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the 2015 Trinidad and Tobago General Elections.
Trinidad and Tobago has a track record of credible elections, and the Commonwealth is committed to continuing its support of the country’s democratic processes. Commonwealth observers were deployed to the country’s General Elections in 2000.
Our six-member Group was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General Mr Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the findings of an assessment team which was in the country last month. The Group is supported by four professional members of staff from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Observers were selected from across the Commonwealth and include legal, media and election experts, as well as members of youth and civil society organisations. Our mandate is to examine the factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. This includes observing and evaluating election day as well as the pre-election and post-election periods.
We will assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Trinidad and Tobago has committed itself, including the constitutional framework and national legislation as well as Commonwealth and other international commitments. We will be objective, independent and impartial.
Since our arrival in the country on 31 August we have met with political parties, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the police and members of the media. Later today and over the next two days we will continue our engagement with relevant stakeholders, including CARICOM observers, civil society and youth representatives. The aim is to ensure we gain a clear and comprehensive understanding of the election process and the electoral environment.
On 4 September, our teams will be deployed to San Fernando, Mayaro, Port of Spain and Tobago to observe the election environment and preparations for election day. On 7 September we will observe the opening and closing of the polls, the polling itself, counting of votes and transmittal of results.
Our Group will issue an Interim Statement of key findings shortly after the elections. Thereafter and before our departure from Trinidad and Tobago on 11 September, we will prepare our final report.
This report of our assessment will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will forward it to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the leadership of political parties, and then to all the Commonwealth governments. The report will then be made publicly available.
The Commonwealth Observer Group stands in solidarity with the people of Trinidad and Tobago as they exercise their democratic right to vote for the leaders of their choice. We urge political parties, voters, the media and all involved to do their part to ensure that the country maintains its reputation for holding peaceful and credible elections.