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THA Lessons Learnt
Based on some of the utterances that have fallen from the lips of the major losing team, it is obvious that the lessons to be learnt from the humiliating defeat of the TOP and by extension, the People’s Partnership (PP) are falling on “hardened heads.” It is an insult to all Tobagonians to suggest that the PNM victory was the result of voters who placed prominence on race, tribal instincts and ethnic fear.
If I were Tobagonian, I would demand an apology from all those over-confident PP politicians who began celebrations long before the polls were closed. Their underestimation of the will of Tobagonians to send a powerful message to this Government and to their counterparts in Trinidad has left the majority of PP members shell-shocked.
The obscene sums of money spent by the TOP during its election campaign and the bombardment of advertisements from its camp which, in some cases, crossed the line of acceptable, proved insufficient to convince the Tobago electorate that it would be better off in the hands of the TOP, a junior member of the PP.
Voting Parties Out
That having been said, it does not automatically mean that Tobagonians were happy with the PNM administration of the THA. Far from it, because over the last few years, there have been several complaints about the gross and wilful neglect of Tobago by the very members of the THA who have been given yet another term of office.
Without any claim of expertise in the field of political analysis, it seems to me that with so many factors stacked against the incumbent PNM, including failure of the THA to deliver on many of its promises, length of time in office with no meaningful change, and less financial support than the TOP for its campaign, it was expected that the TOP would win the election.
I respectfully submit that we have become an electorate that focuses on voting out a regime that we dislike or distrust and pay less attention to voting in the party or slate that attracts our support. This will explain the massive victory in 1986 for the NAR when the PNM was considered a corrupt party that had lost its way, resulting in an unprecedented 33-3 victory for the NAR.
Yet another example would be the result of the May 2010 general election in which the PP was able to capture the significant majority of 29 seats with the PNM retaining only 12 of its former seats. Of course, many people would challenge my analysis which appears to discount the effect of the widespread support that the PP attracted in the run-up to the 2010 election both in Trinidad and Tobago.
But with the greatest respect, the inclusion of that factor, which incidentally has not been disregarded, does not detract from the proposition that the population, especially the swing voters, sent a strong anti-Manning message that led to an embarrassing loss for the PNM. And what greater evidence to support the point than the recent 12-0 victory for the PNM in the THA election which was an outright rejection of the TOP, but really a thumbs down for the performance of the PP Government?
The fact that the TOP was unable to promote itself as a separate component of the PP and was viewed as part and parcel of the UNC, the senior partner, made it inevitable that the indictments against the PP as being a party that has lost the trust and confidence of the population adversely affected the TOP in its bid to win control of the THA.
The fact that the position of Minority Leader of the THA remains vacant at this point places a great onus on the Chief Secretary and all the members of the THA to practise the highest standards of accountability and transparency in their operations. The democratic process requires internal and external checks and balances and when parties win overwhelming majorities, there is always the risk of bad governance.
Both the Chief Secretary of the THA Mr Orville London and the Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley have signalled their acknowledgement that the 12 to zero victory in Tobago means that the members of the THA will be under constant public scrutiny and that they must not disappoint an already disgruntled population that has little faith in its leaders. The result has certainly been a wake-up call for the Government which has no choice but to accept that it is losing its favourable ratings with the public.
And the polls are showing it! This is a time for sterling leadership and a definitive move for the PP to get on the course of providing good governance. The Prime Minister must start listening to those who are prepared to tell her the truth, even if delicately, rather than getting carried away by the chatter of charlatans within her ranks.
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