ROBIN Montano, the interim chairman of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), feels his party was somewhat “ambushed” at a live debate hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission (TTDC) on Thursday night.
This ambush led to the poor performance by Kenneth Roach, the ILP’s representative, at the Senior Representatives’ Debate, Montano said.
On Thursday night the TTDC hosted the first of two live debates in the build-up to the October 21 local government elections.
The debate was held at the studio of State television station, Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) located along Maraval Road in Port of Spain.
Four debaters participated in the event.
Works and Infrastructure Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, the deputy political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), represented the People’s Partnership coalition, which also includes the Congress of the people (COP) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), at the debate.
Opposition Member of Parliament Colm Imbert represented the country’s longest standing political party, the People’s National Movement (PNM).
Rambachan and Imbert were the more experienced debaters of the four.
Akins Vidale, the Movement for Social Justice’s (MSJ) local government candidate for Arima Central, represented his party at the debate.
Vidale and Roach were the lesser-known faces.
These two lesser-known faces came out at differing ends of the spectrum when users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter weighed in on the debate, however.
The majority of commentators selected Vidale as the clear-cut winner among the four debaters.
Vidale was praised for eloquence when responding to topics such as crime, proportional representation and the return of property tax.
But while commentators praised Vidale, they slammed Roach.
The majority of Roach’s statements and responses were cut short by debate moderator Wesley Gibbings because he did not comply with the allotted time frames set in the rules.
Part vii of the rules to the debate stated “Time limits on the responses will be strictly observed”.
“Part viii stated “If a debater does not adhere to the time limits, the debater’s microphone will be turned off and the camera will turn away”.
Roach was a victim of part viii on several occasions.
He was even cut short during his closing comments, provoking laughter from some audience members.
Montano who was part of the studio audience blamed the TTDC for the ILP’s poor showing in the debate.
Montano described Roach as “extremely knowledgeable” and the “head of our think tank”.
“The truth of the matter is when we were first invited to this debate we were told it would be political leaders of the parties and the chairmen of the parties. I agreed right away that I would attend. When we heard that the other chairmen were not attending I said and the executive committee agreed that a chairman would debate with a chairman and a political leader would debate with a political leader. We would not bring our high officers down to the level of whoever,” Montano said.
Montano said the ILP constantly sought information from the TTDC on exactly who would be attending.
“I was surprised to see Dr Rambachan here because they (the TTDC) did not call yesterday. They did not say boo,” he said.
Montano said if the ILP knew Rambachan was attending the debate then deputy political leader Lyndira Oudit would have represented the party.
“If I was a paranoid person I would say it is almost like we were ambushed,” he said.
Imbert described Montano’s claim as being “entirely untrue”.
“It is unfair to the Debates Commission for the ILP, just because they (the ILP) feel embarrassed, maybe they felt that their representative did not perform well. It is untrue, it is wrong of them to say that,” Imbert said.
Rambachan said he felt confident that he got the government’s message across. See Page 16