Confident of winning today's general elections, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says the United National Congress (UNC) is already on the back foot as the People's National Movement (PNM) plans to file an election petition for the Princes Town constituency.
"I am confident that we will be back in government tomorrow morning. In fact, tonight, " Al-Rawi said after casting his vote at the San Fernando West Secondary School this morning.
He said that as an attorney-at-law, he engaged in several election petitions over the year. He even fought his own election petition for which he said cost is still outstanding.
"The UNC has some $7 million in legal cost to pay the PNM, and the primary target was Faris Al-Rawi. I am very, very well familiar with what I need to do in terms of managing election petitions. There will be an election petition in this election for sure because Princes Town is lost, quite properly, so that is definitely a seat that will come to the PNM. But I do not want you to cover that necessarily today. That is for another event."
Al-Rawi said the PNM already spoke about this matter. While he did not want to talk more on the topic until the end of the elections, he said he is counting an additional seat for the PNM.
He said the voting process went quickly. As the 237th person to cast a ballot at that polling station just before midday, he believes this shows a good turnout of voters. While there were complaints by the UNC about the long wait by voters, but Al-Rawi summed it up to inexperience personnel at the Gulf View Community Centre polling station. He said there is always is a high voter turnout in San Fernando West and it seems that the numbers will be par for previous elections.
Al-Rawi said his campaign team spotted a few irregularities before the elections began, such as poll cards issued in the wrong place and political advertisements near polling stations.
"I have to condemn the UNC's continued advertisements. There are signboards that are running in contravention to the law today. I mean digital and electronic signboards. There is one particular advocate for Gulf View who insisted that she located herself in the line from 6 am until the police just removed her a short while ago. That is contrary to election rules, and I want to warn the UNC that they have to obey the rules. As simple as wearing your mask or observing election rules under the law. Those are things that cannot be tolerated, and those are a few of the blots that we have noticed today."
Al-Rawi said the PNM is careful about the aftermath of the elections, acknowledging that COVID-19 remains an issue. He said while they observe the public health protocols, he was shocked at the UNC's disregard for it.
"We will be in our respective zones. There will be no mass gathering at Balisier House as is traditional. When we obtain our victory tonight, that is not on the cards. We are keeping within the parameters of the protocols.
"It was quite shocking; somebody sent me a picture of me passing by one of my opponent, Sean sobers, and I was amazed that at the UNC camp, nobody wears a mask. It is very, very different if you come to our head office and structures. We are just not in that position, so we are taking the COVID situation very seriously."
While the elections goes without CARICOM or Commonwealth observers, Al-Rawi said there is a heavy police presence, polling agents are inside the voting areas, and the media are monitoring the process. He also expressed confidence in the Elections and Boundaries Commission and that the country could manage its elections safely.
"I remind you, at the local government elections, we never have complaints. I do not think it is an absolute necessity that there is CARICOM or Commonwealth observers. The invitation was made; they said they could not afford it, nor would they manage it in the COVID period. It is not that Prime Minister Rowley did not want it, Prime Minister Rowley offer it, volunteered it, it was not accepted."