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Take a bow,Tobago

However it goes on THA election day January 21, the people of Tobago have already scored a victory with the agreement by the contesting political parties to participate in tonight's debate.

To have secured the leaders of the three contending parties to agree to enter the sober, rational environment of the forum organised by the Debates Commission is no mean achievement. Commission chairman Andrew Sabga and his team deserve our deepest appreciation for their commitment on working this breakthrough initiative to this point of success.

It has taken a lot of negotiating and cajoling to get the leaders to the final green light. For a moment there, it was touch and go as one party or the other objected to the Commission's proposals. But the Commission was able to find enough room to keep the parties engaged, options open and hope alive until the final agreement.

This is a huge development for politics in this country where parties and their leaders invest in creating an atmosphere of campaign frenzy in which facts and logic are drummed into irrelevance leaving behind the phenomenon known as rum and roti politics, complete with wine and jam.

In contrast, the debate forum environment is an intervention on the side of rational politics. Through this forum, the electorate gets an uncluttered opportunity to gauge the political leader's mastery of facts, depth of understanding of public issues, coherence of programme and their personality.

All three leaders are to be congratulated for their agreement to participate in the debate. In doing so, Orville London of the People's National Movement, Ashworth Jack of the Tobago Organisation of the People and Hochoy Charles of the Tobago Platform Of Truth are making a significant investment in moving the political process forward.

As leaders operating at the highest level of politics on the sister isle, all three can be proud of their role in setting a higher standard for the political culture. Also to be congratulated are the people of Tobago who are in full support of this initiative. They can take pride in the fact that they are setting the pace for the rest of the country to follow in terms of promoting a more sensible, beneficial approach to political engagement in this country.

Let us not underestimate the courage of all parties involved in taking this step. Coming from a culture where political leaders feel safest before adoring crowds and brain-numbing noise, it takes self-confidence and a willingness to invest in lifting standards for each to have agreed to this step.

All of us have a stake in the success of tonight's debate which we hope will pave the way for leader debates in the run-up to general elections.

To those charged with managing tonight's debate, including facilitator Ronald Ramkissoon and questioners Victor Hart and Hayden Blades, we extend our best wishes for a productive evening.

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