By Andre Bagoo Thursday, January 10 2013
click on pic to zoom in
Planning strategy: Sports Minister Anil Roberts chats with Rolly Quaccoo, the incumbent TOP assemblyman for Canaan/Bon Accord who is seeking re-electi...
TOBAGONIANS yesterday expressed weariness at the ongoing political attacks and counter-attacks in the build-up to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, and the mood of many ranged from guarded optimism in relation to the new Tobago Bill 2013 to disenchantment with all political parties.
Most who spoke with Newsday in the polling district of Canaan/Bon Accord – where the poll was virtually a dead heat in 2009 with five votes marking the TOP as the winner – agreed that the race would, once again, be close. But most were not keen on the politics.
“I am not voting,” said Betsy Titus, 49, who runs the ‘Queen of Sweets’ parlour, known for its red-mango, at Store Bay. “I am disappointed with the parties because of all this bickering over and over. We need some fresh blood to come in and really look at how many people there are out there who do not have jobs.”
She expressed cautious optimism on the tabling of the Tobago Bill 2013 – which was laid in Parliament on Monday and which proposes to give the island the power to make its own laws. “That is what we want,” she said. However, the feeling is that just laying a bill might not translate into tangible change.
“How can we be sure that this is not just an empty promise?” Titus said.
Private pre-school principal Loraine Edoo, 41, who runs a school at Canaan but lives at Buccoo/Mount Pleasant warmly welcomed the new Tobago legislation and argued that notwithstanding the timing the bill, it is the right thing for Tobago.
“In terms of its timing, it is better late than never,” she said, as she went over registers for the day’s class. “Why complain now if somebody wants to put something on the table? I am very aware that it could take years for this to ever become law but at least there is something there now to start from.”
She had a concern that the bill, if made law, should not be implemented too quickly.
“There must be a transitional time-frame,” she said. “They should not rush the implementation.” She said the focus on the political platforms is far removed from the concerns of Tobagonians. “All of the bickering is a distraction from issues that affect us.”
“For example, what about education? None of the parties have discussed anything about early childhood education and the private pre-schools in Tobago. How are these schools going to be supported, bolstered, improved? We have heard nothing.”
Edoo continued, “Another issue for me is healthcare. Why must people watch their whole life savings wiped out in private facilities in Trinidad because of a lack of proper facilities? That is a real story that happened to my mother. Don’t tell me about who build house and who own gas station, I am concerned about things that impact my welfare.”
She added, “Tobago is better off than so many of the smaller Caribbean islands, yet we are lagging behind. After all of these years why is that? I am afraid that is how it is going to remain even after the election and so I am not jumping on any political bandwagon. I believe God will have the last say on election day.”
Though some Tobagonians are weary, some are clearly keenly involved in politics. All over the island, people have put up political flags and paraphernalia outside of their houses. One house on Store Bay Local Road has TOP flags along the length of its balcony. A few blocks down the same road, another building, Spice Island Delicacies, is adorned with PNM flags. Posters are plastered on light-poles everywhere advertising candidates. Cars even have special flaps on their side-view mirrors adorned with political icons. In down-town Scarborough, cars with speakers blasted pro-PNM jingles, one going, “Go PNM, go Balisier!” At other times, a TOP car passed with a different ditty: “save us from the PNM.” In Canaan, another car said, “Canaan and Bon Accord, we suffered too much!”
“I don’t go to political meetings,” said Monica Dillon-Waldron, 50, a sanitation worker and farmer. “You get missiles thrown at you and when the time comes to leave, you find you can’t.” She welcomed the Tobago Bill 2013 but said more needs to be said about other issues.
“In a sense, we can already make our own laws,” she said. “But what I want to see is the implementation. The laws are important, but the people who are there to make the laws should be going to the people and involving them more. And they need to do something for young people and do something about discrimination. There are so many stories of people losing work for wearing political T-shirts.”
At the last THA election in 2009, the Canaan/Bon Accord seat was narrowly won by Rolly Quacoo by 874 votes to PNM Frank Roberts’ 869. Proprietor of one grocery in the area said business remains the same for him and he is avoiding politics. Another man, jogging in Canaan, said he had no idea what was in the Tobago Bill, nor was he interested.
“I try to stay away from the politics,” he said, jogging away.