Tobagonians just wanted change—it wasn’t the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) coalition, independent candidates or ferry service problems which caused the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) losses in Monday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
That’s the view of Tobago PNM chairman Stanford Callender.
He said history—for PNM to have the first female THA Chief Secretary—has been put on hold where Tobago PNM leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine’s bid is concerned.
Callender was among those speaking yesterday on what was done right and wrong, causing Monday’s election outcome.
The ruling PNM, which had 10 THA seats, lost four more, ending up in a 6-6 tie with the PDP.
Callender said, “We’ve grappled for years with something —incumbency can work for or against you. In Tobago, for years people clamoured for change. It happened when (past leader) Orville London was there too. So we changed people within.”
“But PNM has been there for so long. Notwithstanding that DAC spent the same length of time but people wanted change and we knew that was always going to be a challenge. Wanting change was the bottom line so some followed something once it wasn’t PNM.”
Callender said he told the PNM it had to canvass in more technological ways since traditional door-to-door canvassing was limited.
“We’ll have to give more serious thought to more tech-based canvassing as much information we get is misleading. Tobagonians have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear and they don’t vote for you, they vote against something.”
Callender recalled in 1984 in the only election he lost, the PNM’s survey had shown 90 per cent of people saying they’d support him. He lost five to one.
He said the PNM’s legal luminaries have to figure out amid the tie, how control of THA and the appointment of a Chief Secretary will be decided since the law is silent on this.
Former PNM Tobago member and independent candidate Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus, who lost in Scarborough/Signal Hill, said the situation in Tobago changes every 20 years and it’s swinging currently.
“Every 20 years parties in Tobago change hands and you find an electorate bordering on boredom, apathy, frustration—they no have patience. The public feels it’s no longer being heard. So the electorate is patient and gives people up to 20 years to prove themselves- then things happen.”
“This time it hasn’t changed hands but it’s swinging, currently —so the next few days will be telling on what happens (regarding THA control).
On whether the PNM stopped listening to the people, she added, “Every party that’s around long enough begin taking people for granted. That’s how the balance of power changes—when people feel you’ve stopped listening to them.”
On whether she’s remaining in politics, she added, “My focus is ensuring Tobagonians can have a brighter future. My definition (of politics) is listening to the people. I’ll continue listening to them and finding ways of serving the people.”
UNC deputy political leader Jearlean John, a Tobagonian described the 6-6 tie as a wake-up call for the PNM.
“They spent six years, lied their way into power, manipulated the people and behaved shamefully. Everything is a front for them, shouting and insulting. PDP leader Farley Augustine is the exact opposite.”
She added, “Deceased PNM leaders Eric Williams and Patrick Manning were patriots, but not Rowley. He shows he’s all for himself. I’m so happy Mason Hall where he’s from went to PDP and Tobagonians showed him they’re not taking him on again. The entire PNM has morphed into mini Rowleys. But Rowley, when you in a hole—like now—stop digging.”