Political Analyst Anslem Richards says race-baiting was a tactic used in the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections and he believes the People’s National Movement(PNM) is using it again to unseat Watson Duke in the upcoming elections.
Richards was commenting on posters bearing the United National Congress (UNC) symbols and photos of UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Duke. The leaflets were stuck to utility poles in Scarborough, Plymouth and Roxborough.
The PDP and UNC have denied any knowledge of the posters.
“In 2013, when the Calcutta ship statement was made by Hilton Sandy on the PNM platform, it incited fear of another race in Tobago’s politics. This is simply race-baiting. Putting up the posters is to reawaken and instil that fear in the minds of Tobagonians. However, the same kind of tactic is not used in Trinidad,” Richards said.
In 2013, when Sandy addressed supporters on the hustings in Roxborough, he warned about a “Calcutta ship … waiting to sail to Tobago.”
He said the only way to stop it was to vote for the PNM.
“We must not allow that ship to sail and if you don’t want that ship to sail, what you have to do, is vote the PNM,” he said then.
The PNM won all 12 seats in the THA elections.
The UNC was in governance in Trinidad.
Four years later, in 2017, Duke, the PDP’s leader, wrest the much-sought-after electoral district of Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford away from PNM’s Gary Melville.
Fast forward to 2021 and the seat is again a hotly contested one.
Duke, who just retained the post of Public Services Association president, indicated he is not interested in becoming Chief Secretary if the party wins the THA elections. Instead, one of the party’s deputies, Farley Augustine will take the position.
Earlier this month, during the PNM’s walkabout in the area, the party’s Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine underscored the importance of winning the seat.
“Making it happen depends on the collective effort of all of us and the people of Roxborough,” she stressed.
And just over two weeks ago, the PNM’s national leader Dr Keith Rowley made a similar statement.
“A lot of you people, especially public servants in Tobago who have a job and believe this is not your business and you secure. You go and put somebody in office who vex with everybody else and put God out your thoughts and put him in office,” the PM said.
Roxborough is Tobago’s second town.
Within the last four years, the village has developed. It now has an administrative complex, fire and police stations, along with a hospital – most of these were recently commissioned.
Come Monday, Duke will fight the PNM’s newcomer Neil Beckles. Beckles, like Duke, hails from the area.
According to the Elections and Boundaries Commission in 2017,
58 per cent of the electorate voted for the PDP and Tobago Forwards combined, while 42 per cent voted for the PNM.
Statistics showed 60 per cent of the electorate voted.
This time around there is an increase of 116 eligible voters on the EBC’s list as the total number of electorates moved from 3,741 in 2017 to 3,857 in 2020.