The Opposition United National Congress (UNC) believes the recommendations for boundary changes to be made in Tobago by the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to create three new seats will give the People’s National Movement (PNM) an unfair advantage.
In a press conference yesterday, Opposition Member of Parliament, Saddam Hosein said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will come to the Parliament on Wednesday to ask the House to consider the 13th report of the EBC on the Tobago Electoral Districts.
There are currently 12 electoral districts in Tobago: Bacolet/Mount St George, Belle Garden/Goodwood, Bethel/Mt Irvine, Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden, Buccoo/Mt Pleasant, Canaan/Bon Accord, Lambeau/Signal Hill, Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, Plymouth/Golden Lane, Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah, Roxborough/Delaford and Scarborough/Calder Hall.
In the January 2021 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, the PNM won six districts and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) won six districts, causing a deadlock in the Assembly.
Yesterday, Hosein said it will be against the tenants of T&T’s democracy to have the 41 members of the House decide the political future of Tobago’s 51,000 registered voters. Hosein said he read the report and it raises many questions.
“While the Opposition is here to ensure that we hold not only the Government but other constitutional authorities responsible, I am not here to cast any aspersions on any person or member of the EBC but we need answers why after the boundary change, there has been a clear advantage to one political party,” Hosein said.
He said the three new seats proposed in the report give the PNM a greater advantage in Tobago. He said in the January 2021 THA election, only 25 per cent of Tobagonians voted for the PNM. “I can anticipate on Thursday the Prime Minister will come to defend these boundary changes and he will boast of his Tobago heritage but I just want to remind the population that Judas was a disciple of Jesus.”
Hosein said in its report, the EBC indicated it created two of the three new seats by splitting those constituencies with the highest number of voters.
He said the constituencies split were those won by the PNM in January.
“Based on the analysis of the data, when you look at the 15 seats now, and you plug the data from the January 2021 elections into the new 15 seat arrangement, from the six-six deadlock, you will now have the PNM gaining nine of the 15 seats based on those results and the PDP gaining six of the 15 seats.”
He said instead of removing polling divisions from the Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah constituency, the EBC removed polling divisions from the neighbouring district of Goodwood/Belle Garden West.
“All of the time they were using the seats with the highest number of voters and when they reached district number 15, the seat with the highest number of voters, the Providence seat, they said no, we are not using that seat anymore because what will happen is we will fragment communities,” Hosein said.
He said this shows a clear inconsistency in the approach of the EBC.
Hosein said by taking polling divisions from Belle Garden/Goodwood, one of the PDP’s strongest constituencies, that party has less of a chance of winning the newly created district 15.