Debate some more, please
By Andre Bagoo in Tobago Saturday, January 12 2013
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THEY battled it out for 90-minutes in a tightly run debate, but by the end of it, at least for some Tobagonians, there was no clear winner. Yet all agreed that the debate was a good thing and they would like to see more.
“I don’t think there was a clear winner,” said Ron Peterson, of Plymouth. “I expected a lot more. A lot of the issues were old issues. However, this debate should have just been one of a series of debates to give us a better impression. There should be at least two debates. I didn’t think it was easy to make a decision from just this one debate. The questions should have been based on the manifestos of the parties and with not so much about the economic environment. We needed more about the vision of the leaders. But what we saw may have had an impact on the ratings of some of the leaders.”
“The debate should affect the election but I am not sure it will,” said Keith Timothy, of Scarborough. “There was no clear winner for me, but the debate was excellent and we should see more like this.”
Elizabeth George, of Mason Hall, said, “I think there should be more debates like this because we will get to understand the issues more clearly.”
Hillary Charles, a shop-owner, said she felt the debate showed the candidates in a new light. “I think it damaged some and made others stronger,” she said.
Participating in the historic debate were: Hochoy Charles, political leader of the party known as the Platform for Truth (TPT); Ashworth Jack, political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) and Orville London, the incumbent Chief Secretary and leader of the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
The debate proceedings were chaired by Dr Ronald Ramkissoon, chief economist of Republic Bank. There were two questioners: Hayden Blades, the president of Business Insight Limited and Victor Hart, the former chairman of Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute.
During the debate, Charles interrupted the proceedings to ask whether it was right for Jack to bring notes into the debate. Jack later told reporters that he brought in cue-cards with the debate topic headings to then take notes as the candidates spoke during the debate, and not substantive notes.
“Actually that was interesting. I usually jot headlines just in case and as soon as I was told about it I put it away. I wrote the headlines and as I went along I took note of it. It’s a little sour. The headlines were written and as the speaker wrote you took notes,” Jack said. He noted you were allowed to make notes during the debate. “So then why did you have pens and a notepad on the podium.”
President of the Chamber of Commerce Catherine Kumar said there was an unwritten rule banning notes but the debate process would be fine-tuned to make the rules clearer. London yesterday said he was confident that he would participate in future debates, based on feedback he got yesterday.
“I think we can review the format and make it even better,” London said. “This was a good first effort. I think the debate attracted a high viewership, some of whom were hearing of the election issues for the first time. It reached an audience that not even the political meetings have reached.”