You’d have heard Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh even before he entered the Parliament Chamber on Wednesday—so fruitful was his cough.
To PNM colleagues, he hoarsely related his flu story and forcing himself to attend Parliament. Luckily, he’d been spared Local Government (LG) platform duty recently.
Wednesday was the last Parliament sitting preceding Monday’s LG election, the 13th since LG polls began in 1971, according to Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
And that day’s debate was every bit as rough as the LG campaign where every move has counted for the PNM Government and Opposition UNC, each trying to sway T&T’s 1.07 million registered voters in the 139 LG areas. By 9.30 pm Monday, trends will indicate which of the 339 candidates were successful and whether voters were interested enough to surpass the 2016 LG turnout level of 34.34 per cent. Or how much apathy, flu outbreak or other factors reduced it.
PNM’s Edmund Dillon had warned in Siparia on Monday, “This is war! It’s about numbers!”
Dillon’s advice that PNMites shouldn’t feel the UNC “wasn’t doing anything” was acknowledgement of PNM’s need to nudge battleground voters, revealing how it viewed UNC’s stealth campaign, less platforming, more “ground” outreach. Whether UNC’s was as effective as PNM’s doubly high profile lies ahead.
PNM political weaponry has ranged from Parliamentary legislation to platform announcements of plans and perks for the public, plus investigations. UNC’s now subject to more probes than patients at a PSA/OBGYN facility. (ACP Jayson Forde said yesterday, police probe of the Christopher Wiley/Cambridge Analytica issue is still “ongoing”).
At PNM’s Diego Martin meeting, Finance’s Colm Imbert admitted, “We know we put you under pressure, it wasn’t easy, after four years (pressure) we decided we have to give back.”
At election time. Last Friday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi told Parliament the current time was the “correct” one for marijuana decriminalisation legislation. Three years after this writer’s exclusive story where Al-Rawi revealed he was seeking to examine statistical groundwork on decriminalisation, and Dr Keith Rowley immediately and coldly said it wasn’t discussed with Cabinet and Government “wasn’t examining it at that point.” Decriminalisation looks set to become landmark legislation when Parliament returns to the Red House next year.
However, excess “offerings” have prompted concerns about perceived inducements as well as poor, overly strident campaign tones. Also: Local Government reform, expected to have starred among issues, remains unimplemented and was swamped amid the general election campaign model.
PNM’s Palo Seco meeting, which red jerseys didn’t dominate, was timed and located to “manage” southern weaknesses following Petrotrin’s closure, first anniversary of which is today.
More than what each party proffered/promised, issues also involves trust regarding both sides and leaders. Prime Minister Rowley and Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, both fighting against falling back. Further.
If PNM’s “Getting it Done” anthem lacked chorus on crime, PNM may have obtained excuse, other than police inefficiency, when both sides on Wednesday unsuccessfully debated the Bail bill. Ironically though, Security Minister Stuart Young’s confession that crime statistics were “frightening” cast the biggest indictment on Government, police (and himself). If the 484 murder toll surpasses the 2018 level (517) in the next 31 days, even LG victory may not suffice.
With parties seeking to retain corporations which they hold almost equally, boundary and other changes, plus presence of Independents in battlegrounds have made PNM optimistic about Siparia, Sanger Grande and the Barataria seat UNC won in 2018. Rowley exulted in Thursday’s Grande turnout, where ex-UNC Cumuto MP Collin Partap (in red and black) was up front, applauding as Rowley lashed the PP/UNC.
PNM’s reinforcing Maracas/Santa Margarita where former councillor Martin Gonzales’ contesting independently. Whether UNC’s “Worknation” thrust is banking on ethnic support and disgruntled PNMites, it’s reinforcing Siparia, Barataria and “working” battlegrounds.
How “tight”/tiebreaker seats emerge, now depends on Monday’s ground games. PNM advisers confirm victory won’t cause an earlier 2020 general election: they cited Rowley’s Diego Martin statement that general polls will be held when constitutionally due.
As for who’ll be smiling,or being sick, in Parliament next Friday, answers ahead on Monday.