Tragarete Road was traffic-free minutes before midnight on Thursday - but social distancing was hardly part of the Charlotte Street bustle yesterday.
A woman on Duke Street decided to snort the contents of her nose out as she walked. People negotiated the pavement with this much space between.
If the State of Emergency’s removal was greeted with caution on some fronts and less elsewhere, it loaned the Opposition political opportunity to query whether its end two weeks earlier than scheduled was for Tobago House of Assembly polls campaigning.
Heavy play for the upcoming last three weeks of campaigning was already previewed in Monday’s Nomination Day exercise - an appalling lack of COVID protocols among parties.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in fightback form to UNC whip David Lee’s focus on the THA election, said, “(You thinking) 10 pm to 5 am is when they campaign in Tobago – absolute dotishness! You take no part in the election in Tobago, you hide behind the PDP, you can’t find a candidate to put up – but you know ‘bout canvassing in Tobago! Nobody canvasses at night!”
Rowley’s hardly alone in his expressed wish for an elevation of the thought process in T&T. But he should have a good idea of what detractors will shout after today’s 6 pm PNM meeting at Mason Hall, where Tobago PNMites said he will be speaking.
That Rowley will speak from his birthplace location - which opponent PDP holds - telegraphs the fight facing PNM after its four-seat slide in the January THA polls. On Wednesday, he’d said T&T is on a different plane now, not to expect lockdown “the storm is with us and we’re going full speed ahead.”
COVID apart, that includes THA polls. Some from Tobago businesses and other strata believe the ground’s shifting to the PDP - but also feel PDP leader Watson Duke’s “colourful” personality and secession plans may be to PNM’s advantage in the largely PNM-PDP race of 45 candidates from four parties.
How much former PNMite Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus’s 13 Innovative Democratic Alliance candidates split PNM votes remains ahead. IDA intends contesting the three new south/west seats where PNM’s strong. There’s a PNM/PDP/IDA fight there and a four-way fight with Unity of the People in Buccoo.
But IDA’s not contesting in PDP turf Belle Garden and Roxborough, leaving a PNM/PDP race. However, Tsoiafatt-Angus says there’s no arrangement with PDP or PNM.
Also to be considered are Tobago party leaders’ personality issues, Tobago’s youth to whom PDP’s anti-establishment pitch is geared; those wanting change but not what’s offered, and cultural issues with how Tobago West views East country.
For Rowley, a Mason Hall appearance - in PDP East “turf” - heralds his personal battle to retake ground in that part of his birth island. It’s necessary: result from this second THA poll in 11 months will stamp a projected victory (or defeat) ahead for one party in the 2022 Local Government polls and General Elections. If results go against PNM, UNC, will immediately yell “General Elections now!” and warpath its way through the term.
As Government grapples with challenges unprecedented for any administration, UNC’s battle language is more emboldened – baiting Rowley – and its Tobago links less hidden. Despite COVID cases spiking, UNC’s breaking statements – on Rowley’s alleged friends and the Police Service Commission – have been beyond the COVID crux.
The PSC’s began with calls from attorneys for former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith for the CoP merit list. That’s amid other loose ends left by the last PSC, including how Rowley’s loss of confidence complaint to the last PSC on Griffith was handled. And where that stood, if – as Griffith’s lawyer Larry Lalla says – the PSC said on August 15 that Griffith had maintained its confidence as best fitted for Commissioner pending selection completion.
But for citizens now challenged with taking greater responsibility for their COVID safety, the stats are grim. Vaccinated being three per cent of deaths. Households are infected. T&T’s 30 per cent away from herd immunity. Deaths heading for 2,000.
How the storm (Rowley referenced) is handled will involve faith in individual competence, not political fate. Or political hate from some platforms.