Friday, December 15, 2017

Keeping it free and fair


Mark Fraser

After a bruising campaign conducted under a canopy of allegations, counter-allegations and legal threats, Tobagonians go to the polls this morning to elect the leaders of the Tobago House of Assembly for the next term.

As brutal as this THA election campaign has been, the unfortunate reality is that it has been consistent in tone with other electoral campaigns in Trinidad and Tobago. Much has been said and done that would have caused hurt and regret.

Today, however, Tobagonians must put the campaign aside and get down to the serious business of exercising their democratic right to put their X against the name of the candidate they believe will best represent their interest in the THA.

There has been talk about strategies being hatched to buy votes inside the booth. We encourage the Elections and Boundaries Commission to spare no one found in breach of its regulations which form the basis for the list of offences published in the daily newspapers yesterday.

We urge all parties, and especially their leaders, to ensure that their representatives respect the EBC regulations which are designed to protect the rights of all citizens between the polling hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The campaign has ended and the politicians have had their say. It is the time now for the people to have their turn.

It is a truism that after every election campaign, no matter how scarring, the people who have been divided by a campaign must find the means to unite again. After the final vote is counted tonight, we hope Tobagonians will find their way back to each other in the common interest of the future of their island and of their country of Trinidad and Tobago.

After the election, Tobago faces the great constitutional debate over the new shape of internal self-government and its relationship with big sister, Trinidad.

Having begun in the heat of an election campaign, the debate has already taken an acrimonious turn. Hopefully, once the election dust is settled, the constitutional debate will resume on a more rational, sensitive and sensible basis so as to strengthen local government in Tobago while anchoring it more firmly, equitably and respectfully in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

For now, we hope Tobago finds the peace, calm and clarity today that will allow its people to exercise their democratic right to vote for the representatives of their choice.

In this process, there is no place for subversion and wrongdoing by any individual or political party.

As they go to the polls, we hope Tobagonians will stay alert in looking out for each other and be willing to report any activity that may be in breach of the EBC's regulations.

On this day, the only imperative is free and fair elections.