CLEANING UP: People’s National Movement supporter Cherylann Abraham sweeps the ground outside the party’s Scarborough headquarters with a cocoyea broom last night as results started coming in indicating a PNM victory in the Tobago House of Assembly elections. —Photos: MICHEAL BRUCE
London’s bridge stands strong in THA elections; PNM: 12 TOP: 0
Ria Taitt Political Editor
The Peoples’s National Movement (PNM) won all 12 seats in yesterday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
It was a feat which not even ANR Robinson, the architect of Tobago self-determination, had achieved.
An historic victory for the Opposition party has enhanced the position of Dr Keith Rowley as leader and as a prime minister in waiting. The PNM improved on its previous position of eight seats against the Tobago Organisation of the People’s (TOP) four.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Ashworth Jack were strongly rebuffed by the electorate. Jack lost his seat and the question that political analysts posed last night was whether he can withstand this landslide. His position as leader of the TOP and the TOP’s position in the coalition now hangs in the balance, analysts said.
The Tobago electorate halted the rampaging power of the People’s Partnership which with its control of the Parliament and the local government system, would have achieved complete dominance in the political landscape with the THA victory, a feat which only the NAR government had ever achieved and only for a short time.
The Prime Minister’s heavy-handed presence in the Tobago campaign proved to be a negative for the TOP was also noted last night by analysts. And Rowley’s measured intervention, leaving Tobago leader Orville London to run much of the show, appeared to have cemented the PNM’s lead.
Tobagonians saw a TOP win as a win for Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the People’s Partnership/UNC.
Notwithstanding the carrot of the Tobago Constitution Amendment Bill, all the promises made and the money spent in the campaign, Tobagonians sought a political haven in the PNM in what was deemed to be the most hotly contested THA campaign.
What role the issue of race played would probably be a topic of debate for some time. Hilton Sandy who made the controversial statement about the “Calcutta ship” coming, did not pay a price and won his seat comfortably. Whether he would return as Deputy Chief Secretary is another question.
Last night the PNM, which would celebrate its 57th anniversary on Thursday, was in an exultant mood. An exuberant PNM chairman Franklin Khan gushed: “Thank you, thank you” as he addressed dancing Tobagonians, celebrating the PNM’s first electoral victory since its humiliating defeat of May 2010.
The message of the election was clear—a swing back to the PNM. The TOP which had won the two Tobago seats in the May 2010 election and was aiming to underturn the PNM and to end London’s 12 year hold as Chief Secretary, suffered instead a total rejection.
Jack congratulated London and he took full responsibility for the elections result. He said he would be meeting with his executive in the next few days to assess his position. He however stressed that he would not want to be an albatross around the neck of his party.
London, who returns as Chief Secretary for the fourth time, said the 12-0 result was a victory for the people of Tobago. “We are Tobagonians first before we are party people,” he said.
Persad-Bissessar said the people of Tobago had spoken and assured that her government would work with the THA.
THe PNM has had an up and down relationship from total rejection to total acceptance. It was an 11/1 wipeout in 1984 under Robinson, when the PNM had a lone member on the THA. That was when George Chambers and his Trinidad forces were determined to teach Robinson a lesson and failed. The PNM lost the THA from 1980 to 2000. The position was reverted by 2001 under London when the PNM won 11/1.
The Tobago love for the PNM prevails.