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Sunday 26 January 2020
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Four-way battle for leadership

Final week of campaigning in PNM Tobago polls

Chief Secretary and PNM Tobago Council political leader Kelvin Charles walks with his wife, Catherine. 
 - DAVID REID
Chief Secretary and PNM Tobago Council political leader Kelvin Charles walks with his wife, Catherine. - DAVID REID

The battle is on.

With just one week to go before the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) Tobago Council internal election, it’s anybody’s guess as to who would lead the 22-year-old council and become the island’s next Chief Secretary.

Some 17 executive positions are up for grabs in the election.

It has been one of the most keenly-contested in recent years.

All eyes will be on the fight for political leader and there are four contenders in the race. They are the incumbent leader and Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles; Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance and the Economy Joel Jack; TT Ambassador to Costa Rica Tracy Davidson-Celestine; and former THA presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus.

Tracy Davidson-Celestine, left, arrives at the PNM headquarters in Scarborough on Monday to file her nomination papers to contest for political leader of the PNM Tobago Council. - DAVID REID

The candidates have been visiting communities and hosting cottage meetings in the past weeks, are running relatively smooth campaigns.

The only dark spot, up until now, being Davidson-Celestine’s call for incumbent chairman of the PNM’s Tobago Council Stanford Callender to apologise for the contents of a song he performed last Sunday at the launch of Charles’ campaign at the Black Rock Hard Court.

Callender, a former Tobago West MP, is supporting Charles for the leadership.

Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack speaks to the media after filing his nomination papers on Monday at the PNM headquarters in Scarborough. - DAVID REID

Davidson-Celestine, who described the song as “debasing and misogynistic,” had called on Callender to apologise but he has refused to do so, saying it was a matter of interpretation.

Although she unsuccessfully contested the 2016 internal election, having lost to Charles in a run-off, Davidson-Celestine has harboured thoughts of leading the Tobago Council and becoming Chief Secretary.

So, for many, it was not surprising when, on December 16, she filed nomination papers along with the other competitors, to contest the election.

A former Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Tourism under the previous Orville London-led THA administration, Davidson-Celestine has had a long-standing involvement with the Tobago PNM. It dates back to her days as a youth in the Tobago East constituency, where she was born and raised.

The former Speyside/L’Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier representative said putting people first would be the mantra of her stewardship if elected.

“Service to people has always been my passion and I intend to deliver good governance in Tobago PNM Council and all of Tobago,” she told supporters on Wednesday at the launch of her campaign and manifesto at the Buccoo Integrated Facility.

Davidson-Celestine’s candidacy is underpinned by the need to promote what she considers to be an inclusive approach to governance.

She believes the council, under Charles’ leadership, has veered from its moorings of meeting people “on the highways and byways, in bars, at the level of the electoral district.

“It was something that we hold very dearly to. But we have lost some of those values going forward. We have lost the connection with some of our communities and we want to ensure that with our team, we are able to restore and bring back values that we hold very dearly as PNM members.”

Davidson-Celestine said part of her strategy for moving the Tobago Council forward involves the implementation of a 100-day plan aimed at “tackling the multiple concerns confronting the party.”

This, she said, includes the establishment of a reconciliation committee to promote healing within the party.

Davidson-Celestine said if elected leader, she also intends to implement a measurement structure to monitor the council’s performance, improve delivery mechanisms within the PNM and establish a party school, to treat with, among other things, the mentoring of young, aspiring politicians.

She added the council’s social development initiatives also needed to be strengthened. “We can’t all be work. We have to ensure we have some level of social activities going forward... This will ensure that our members come together.” Davidson-Celestine hosts Unity: The Ultimate Event, today, at the Argyle Recreation Ground. The event, scheduled to begin at 4.30 pm, is expected to feature performances by Oscar B, Olatunji, Farmer Nappy and others.

Former THA presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus. - DAVID REID

Tsoiafatt-Angus seeks participatory approach

Tsoiafatt-Angus’ plans, if elected leader, mirrors those of Davidson-Celestine.

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