As fresh Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Elections approach, the biggest potential game changer in the democratic republic is being discussed only in hushed tones.
Under the cover of COVID – 19 and its variations, half of the voting population is scared.
While very few are talking about the massive 6-6 chopping dealt upon the PNM Tree of Life in elections last January, everybody is aware that – in this hazardous environment – the lever of power can tilt in any direction.
In a situation where former contract teacher Farley Augustine was originally seen by many as a political upstart when compared with an opponent such as sophisticated diplomat Tracy Celestine-Davidson, the atmosphere has definitely changed.
According to Wikipedia’s records: “The 2021 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election was held on 25 January 2021 where 12 members were elected in the eleventh election since the Assembly was established in 1980.
This election marked the first time in history that both parties elected, the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) won an equal number seats, despite the PNM winning the popular vote, resulting in a constitutional crisis with both political parties and Prime Minister Keith Rowley seeking Senior counsel advice on the way forward.
This election was the first time after 20 years in power that the PNM lost its absolute majority”
Behind Rowley’s poker-fac hiding the shell-shocked man who had just lost half his troops in one blow, the pain of disappointment could be heard in the inner voice of an “Ah We Boy” who had done so much to forward his homeland.
“The Prime Minister laid out…the steps to be taken, starting from Monday, to pave the way for a fresh Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election with 15 seats in order to break the current six-six deadlock between the PNM and the PDP”.
The apportioning of 15 seats to be now contested means that one side must win, much to the relief of Tobagonians who feel that enough is enough.
However, it may come as small comfort to the PNM which lost precious ground in Tobago East despite the brave efforts of MP Ayana Webster-Roy who reminded apparently deaf Tobagonians about all the great things her government had done for them in the past.
It is not helped by the rantings of Watson Duke, leader of the PDP, who says it’s time to “free Tobagonians from bondage – not through internal self-governance, but through full independence from Trinidad”.
In a “Newsday” report by Elizabeth Gonzales on October 30, 2019 Duke argued that his separation is not a call for war, but instead for Tobago to have the chance to unlock its ability to grow its economy.
Duke said if his PDP were to be successful in capturing the two seats in Tobago for the general election, the island will have its own judicial system, a commissioner of police, a chief justice, prime minister, legislative power, its treasury and currency along with a cargo port.
“There is no going forward with any government, because we will out-vote them (in Parliament). They will not be able to pass a single bill unless they sit, discuss and agree on Tobago independence.”
During the general elections campaign of 2019, Duke promised that if his party were successful in capturing the two seats in Tobago, he would start taking the sister isle down the road to Independence.
The PNM won both seats but with a significant slide in Tobago East which worked against the party as evidenced in the 6-6 THA elections of January 2021.
Chief Secretary, Kelvin Charles, had warned Duke that he will “pay the political price” for his call. He said Duke was completely misrepresenting the interests of Tobagonians. He said while autonomy is something Tobagonians are keen on, the majority have ”snubbed” the idea of independence as they are all loyal to the twin-island republic..
At a press conference, Duke called on Tobagonians living in Trinidad to be ready to stand with him. His dream is to make Tobago stand on its own and create its own nation.
“It means that at the 2020 elections, I am expecting a middle-of-the-road voting pattern. It could be 19, 20 (seats) at best. We have a minority government which creates a situation that both sides need to talk to each other.”
He added, “As soon as those two seats are given to me it’s my responsibility to ensure we go down on a boat ride full of Tobagonians to ensure independence. The constitution dissolves, there’s no longer Trinidad and Tobago. There’s Trinidad by itself and Trinidad by itself. We will now create our own nation.”
“Childish, petty and undemocratic.”
Those were the words of a very confident Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Deputy Leader Farley Augustine as he described the Government’s solution to treating with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) deadlock, following the 6-6 result of the January 25 election.
During an address to Tobago, the Assemblyman accused Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of using the Parliament to advance the agenda of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in Tobago.
Augustine said the current impasse preventing the election of a Presiding Officer to move forward with the business of the Assembly further cements the need for Tobago’s autonomy.
He stated that the proposal to increase the number of seats from 12 to 15 was neither justified, nor would it prevent a deadlock in the future.
Augustine questioned: “How much longer must the people of Tobago wait for their autonomy? We have already been waiting for what seems like an eternity.”
With that kind of confidence expressed by the PDP, Prime Minister Rowley is certainly facing a major obstacle as his badly shaken PNM regroups to go to the THA polls in Tobago for yet another time since its crippling experience of January, 2021.
Already bashed in by the COVID 19 pandemic coupled with a troubled energy situation, this beleaguered TT Prime Minister must know how ominous the THA elections can be in terms not only of the future of Tobago but also the fate of the PNM in the next general elections.
In this regard, it may just be a matter of time and then…