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Tobago sweetness

Wednesday, January 16 2013

NOT only has the sister isle been buffeted by ocean waves, but Tobagonians now face a “tsunami” of election goodies from the three parties contesting next Monday’s elections for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

The icing on the cake of the ground-level political rallies and the leaders debate has been this week’s launch of campaign manifestos by both the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) and the Peoples National Movement (PNM).

A manifesto is an exercise in creativity that supports a party’s credibility.

The two manifestos differ. The TOP manifesto was a concise 26 pages long, compared to the 60-page PNM manifesto.

The TOP manifesto listed both the present state of affairs and its plans for various sectors in Tobago (such as “Energy, Education or Tourism).

The PNM offers a manifesto and a “Record of Achievement 2008-2013”.

The TOP manifesto concisely set out creative suggestions for improving life in Tobago, with mild jabs at the former PNM administration, as they lamented that “problems of 20 years ago still exist with no real solutions in sight — health care, infrastructure, food insecurity, access to essential services, and housing”.

The TOP urged, “Tobago needs a new vision that solves the major challenges of Tobagonians, a way forward that re-engages Tobagonians and uses their inherent pride, thrift, creativity and passion for hard work to make this place a real home for us all”.

The PNM manifesto takes longer to read, but is very politically “biting”.

“In the first decade of this millennium, the PNM-led THA arrested the wholesale sell-out of lands to the rich from elsewhere in the world,” said the PNM, now urging Tobagonians not to fall for the “blandishments of false gifts that would leave us dispossessed and supplanted by those who have little interest in preserving the Tobago heritage and Tobagonians ownership of our beautiful land”.

Overall, if all of these manifesto promises are ever kept, the sister isle would become a true paradise on earth.

Tourism would get more support, while Tobagonians would also benefit from a whole new hive of economic activities based on the supply of gas to the Cove Estate. Both parties want Tobagonians to become participants in any utilising of the recent discovery of natural gas off Tobago.

While the TOP had environmental concerns about this gas find harming local ecology, they also saw opportunities, saying, “Given that petroleum assets are deemed to be located in the waters off Tobago, one focus may be on a portion of the royalty earnings as distinct from corporation taxes”.

The PNM manifesto said the gas-find could boost Tobago’s “gas-based power generation, transport, manufacturing, community activities and tourism plants”. It said, “The gas finds in Tobago raise the prospect of gas-led development being central to all development planning”.

Tobagonians are set to enjoy a new prestige, as each party vies to outdo the other(s) in promises of a new status for Tobago within the unitary state.

The TOP boasts of its membership in the Government which laid the Constitutional (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2013 in Parliament for debate today.

In addition to this law empowering the THA to be an independent law-making body, the TOP manifesto also proposes to decentralise power to communities in Tobago who can each elect representatives to two proposed new bodies — a North-East and a South-West Regional Development Authority — which would have delegated powers from the THA.

The PNM said they had intervened in the past to secure land-ownership for Tobagonians, and claimed to be champions of Tobagonians’ cause.

“Some of the venom spewing at us is motivated by our success in protecting Tobago lands for Tobago people,” said the PNM manifesto, alleging unnamed persons want to displace Tobagonians from enjoying their lands.

So we urge Tobagonians to carefully mull all these manifesto promises as they prepare to vote, and those of The Platform for Truth (TPT) if and when it comes.

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