Last update: 05-Dec-2013 3:57 pm
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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There is expected to be a fierce political battle over the next several weeks as parties now have to gear up not only for the October 21 local government elections but also the St Joseph by-election on November 4. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the date for the by-election after the seat was declared vacant by Speaker Wade Mark during yesterday’s sitting of the Lower House.
In her brief address, Persad-Bissessar said despite the universal mid-term dip in popularity felt by governments around the world, her PP Government has not sought to defer any elections. She said there were mechanisms the Government could have employed to do so, noting during the Patrick Manning-led People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, the local government elections had been deferred by an act of Parliament three times using its parliamentary majority.
“We had that majority too, but we have not used the majority to abuse the rights of the public interest of T&T,” she pointed out. Persad-Bissessar said the PP was not fearful of the public’s assessment of its performance, and the Government did the right thing by calling the local government elections despite calls for their deferral. The records “will show that democracy is strong in T&T,” she said.
By year’s end, the PM noted, the country’s political landscape would have been coloured by four elections, two of which have gone already: Chaguanas West and the Tobago House of Assembly.
Reiterating that past governments had deferred elections because some people felt holding them was not in the political interest of the ruling party at the time, she said: “I say it before and I say it again, that the Government that I lead will always serve the people’s interest ahead of any narrow political interest and that we will be judged by how we serve the country first and party second.”
After the announcement there were shouts from the opposition benches that the PNM was ready, to which Mark jokingly said, “Okay, I am ready here.” Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal said afterwards that the PP intended to screen for a by-election candidate within the coming days. “Time is limited but we intend to mobilise for both local government and constituency,” he said.
Moonilal said the PP was very positive going forward and hoped to retain the St Joseph seat, though he expected a fierce political fight for both elections. The UNC is expected to announce its 136 candidates for the local government elections on Monday at Harris Promenade, San Fernando. PNM senator and PRO Faris Al-Rawi said the party welcomed the announcement of the date of the by-election. “The PNM is ready to take St Joseph,” he said.
“There are many people who are eager to hold the PNM flag in the race for the St Joseph seat. The party’s screening committee is spoilt for choice and I am confident that a truly excellent candidate will emerge.” The PNM will present its 136 local government candidates tomorrow at Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain. Robin Montano, interim chairman of the Independent Liberal Party, said the announcement was welcome and that the ILP is ready, willing and able.
“We are as confident of victory as we are confident that the sun will rise and we will see it rise and hear the birds sing,” he said.
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