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ORVILLE TOPS JACK

By NEWSDAY STAFF Tuesday, January 22 2013

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THE INCUMBENT People’s National Movement (PNM) obliterated the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) in yesterday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, winning all 12 seats. The Tobago electoral map was literally painted in the PNM’s colour — red.

From as early as 9 pm, it was clear that the PNM had easily pushed the TOP into second place in virtually all seats, with The Platform for Truth (TPT) party trailing a distant third everywhere.

TOP leader Ashworth Jack, the former THA minority leader, lost his Pro-

vidence/Mason Hall/Moriah seat which was won by the PNM for the first time ever. TPT leader Hochoy Charles, a past THA chief secretary, failed to win the Plymouth/Golden Lane seat he once held.

This is the fourth time in a row that the PNM has won the THA election and sets out London for another four years on top of his past 12 years as THA chief secretary.

The PNM in 2001 won eight seats to the four won by the NAR; in 2005 it won 11 seats to the DAC’s one seat; in 2009 it won eight seats to the TOP’s four and last night, it won 100 percent — 12 out of 12.

This election saw a whopping 70 percent of registered electors voting more than the 56 percent in the 2009 THA polls. In giving the PNM a clean sweep, Tobago voters yesterday sharply reversed their vote in the 2010 general elections when they elected the TOP’s Vernella Toppin-Alleyne and Dr Delmon Baker.

Yesterday was also the first time the PNM ever won the Mason Hall seat, hitherto held by Ashworth Jack. The PNM’s Hilton Sandy was re-elected to his seat of Roxborough/Delaford, despite his “Calcutta ship” controversy, beating his TOP rival by 1,422 to 1,198 votes.

Last night, the influx of results at Scarborough created jubilation at PNM Tobago headquarters, while the TOP camp had an air of a funeral.

In an immediate response, Jack took responsibility for his party’s shock obliteration and said that within the coming days, he would consider his political future.

At 10 pm, London gave a victory speech hailing the result but calling on electors to now put Tobago ahead of any party political interest. He said the THA cannot do everything alone and called on Tobagonians to adopt a new outlook to help build the island. London called for a “total rethink of attitudes and postures over the past two and a half years” in the relationship between the PNM-led THA and the People’s Partnership Government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in the best interest of the people of Tobago.

London wanted both to meet in an environment of, “amicable resolution, meaningful consultation and mutual respect”, to discuss reform of the THA and the Constitution. He also urged Government to pay the THA its “best inauguration gift” of an allegedly outstanding $625 million in allocations.

“Tonight I feel humbled, challenged and inspired...all at the same time,” said London as all around him bells were rung and a PNM supporter even waved her cocoyea broom joyously in the air. “This is not an Orville London victory or a PNM victory. This is a victory for the people of Tobago,” London said. Urging Tobago unity after a polarising campaign, he said, “We can’t allow that polarisation and divisiveness to mark and brand us, going forward. From tonight, the election is over and the people must work together for the people of Tobago.” This unity was shown by him not wearing a PNM jersey, he told listeners.

London vowed new strategies and governance structures to transform the Tobago landscape, so Tobagonians can have more say in their own affairs apart from their THA ballot every four years. He said Tobagonians must take responsibility so as to claim self-sufficiency and autonomy. Paying tribute to the isle’s youth, he said he’d never been prouder of them.

Opposition and PNM Leader Dr Keith Rowley, then addressed cheering supporters, loudly praising the work of London. A dejected TOP leader Ashworth Jack later addressed a media conference.

At 10.04 pm, Persad-Bissessar issued a statement of concession via email, but did not go to TOP headquarters to publicly speak. Her statement sought to rally deflated spirits of the defeated and be conciliatory toward the victors. She said the people of Tobago had spoken.

“This has been a tough political battle and the choice for Tobagonians between change and a perpetuation of an administration which has been in place for 12 years,” said Persad-Bissessar. “Tobagonians, in an overwhelming majority, chose to stay with the Orville London-led THA, and as I have always said, the voice of the people, is the voice of God. I wish to extend congratulations to Mr London and the PNM for the resounding victory secured at the THA polls,” her statement continued.

She assured London and Tobagonians that the Government would work with the THA in the interest of developing Tobago for the benefit of all. “To our own supporters I say do not despair. In the words of poet Maya Angelou, ‘while one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated’,” said Persad-Bissessar.

“There is much to be learnt from this and from which strong character can emerge. It is a time for introspection and resolve. A time to gather valuable insights that will serve us well in the months and years ahead.

“To each of you who worked tirelessly, I express my heartfelt gratitude. Somewhere down the road your efforts will bring you the returns and the victory will be sweeter. But for now, let us be mindful that the election is over. Let us put aside our political differences and embrace each other. All that matters now is the development of Tobago which we will work together to develop.”By Andre Bagoo



EVEN before the polls in Tobago closed yesterday, many described the voter turnout as being possibly higher than not only the last Tobago House of Assembly election in 2009 (23,916 or 56.39 percent) but also the 2010 general election (27,776 or about 60 percent).

“There seems to be a higher turnout than last time,” Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) chairman Dr Norbert Masson said yesterday. “But as we speak the final figures are not in.”

Political leader of the PNM Tobago Council Orville London yesterday morning said he had seen indications that the final turnout could be higher than that for the 2010 general election.

“I think the turnout at this time was better than for the general election of 2010 and indeed the last time there was a THA election,” London told reporters after casting his vote at the Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago.

“If it was another year and I saw a high turnout I would have been nervous at this point in time. I would have known that the PNM was in power in Tobago and in Trinidad. But this time around, I think a high turnout would not be disadvantageous to us.”

“I think we are going to have a historic turnout,” said TOP candidate for Lambeau/Signal Hill Chester Robinson Alleyne after casting his vote at the Lambeau Anglican Primary School, Lambeau. “Right now the lines are loaded. Everybody is excited. I have heard of similar things in other areas. I think we are seeing a very enthused electorate. People are fired up.”

Early yesterday morning, it was clear there was a good turnout at polling stations on the island. Many people were seen lining up at stations in Bon Accord, Lambeau and Scarborough. One party official, attached to one of the mock polling stations set up outside of the perimeter of polling stations by both the PNM and TOP, said from as early as 6 am about 30 persons were already lined up at the Lambeau Anglican Primary School, Lambeau. From beind the 100-metre limit, beyond which assembly was not allowed under election day rules, it was clear that many had come out to vote.

At the Scaborough RC School, Bacolet Street, Scarborough, voters expressed relief at being able to finally vote.

Marva Nancis, of Mt St George, said, “I feel relieved that it is all over. I am hoping for change in Tobago.”

Cecil Delmar, 78, said his voting experience went smoothly.

“The process is going smoothly and one thing I like in particular is that they are taking care of senior citizens and recognising that they have needs on election day. For example, you can sit down and don’t have to wait, standing.” He said he is looking for some peace with the end of the campaigning. “I think the campaign was very long and I feel there will be peace and love afterwards,” he said. “Tobago people is one people and they will unite in peace and harmony. How many Gods we have? One.”

Another woman, who passed by the media after voting, said, “I feel relief. No more evil! I feel I was able to cast my vote to the person or persons I would like to see in the THA. I don’t want no foolishness. I am a senior citizen.”

A resident of Mt Grace said he cast his vote because he wanted change.

“I am not accustomed voting but this election year is a more serious election,” said Nicholas Anthony, who said he was a cousin of TOP political leader Ashworth Jack. “So I have come out to vote because Trinidad and Tobago are undergoing a lot of changes right now and from what I see we don’t have a lot of togetherness. I find that for a small nation we are supposed to be more developed so I am voting for change.”

Fr Kenneth Forrester cast his vote at the Scaborough RC School.

There were a series of allegations and counter-allegations in relation to election day offences made, prompting the EBC to issue a press release to urge citizens to formally report complaints to the police.

While there are election rules banning parties from seeking to influence voters on election day, some party officials yesterday issued text messages accusing the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) of “robo call” campaigning, namely automated telephone calls. One text message circulated in the name of a PNM official and said, “If the TOP could do this in direct contravention to the EBC it is a clear indication that they intend not to follow the EBC’s rules.”

The TOP in turn issued a press release saying, “The TOP refutes the PNM election day propaganda that the party is engaging in telephone canvassing. the TOP has no knowledge of such activity and has issued no such authorisation. The TOP rejects these blatant attempts by the PNM to interfere with the smooth running of the election by interjecting unsubstantiated and wild allegations.”

“No company or anyone has been contracted to do that,” TOP political leader Ashworth JAck said when questioned on the issue at the Mt Grace Community Centre, Mt Grace, after he voted yesterday morning.

For its part, the EBC accused no party, but simply, in a press release, stated persons should report matters to the police if there were problems.

“It has come to the attention of the EBC that potential voters are receiving text messages and or phone calls urging them to vote for a particular party,” the EBC said in a two-line press release. “The Commission wishes to advise that persons receiving such requests while in the precints of a polling station should report the matter to the police.”

Mobile phones were banned inside polling booths by the EBC.

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