TOBAGO East candidate Ayanna Webster-Roy is confident the constituency will remain in the hands of the PNM after the August 10 general election.
“I will serve again as the elected representative for the people of Tobago East in the House of Representatives,” she declared in an interview over the weekend.
Webster-Roy, who is seeking another term to serve the people in the largely rural constituency, said her track record of public service makes her the ideal candidate going forward.
As such, she scoffs at the view, in some quarters, that the constituency is marginal, owing to the perceived influence of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP)
That party’s political leader Watson Duke, who won the Roxborough/Delaford electoral district in the 2017 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, has set his sights on winning the Tobago East constituency to elevate his chances of negotiating with whichever party wins the majority of seats in the general election.
Duke, who is also the THA’s Minority Leader, has publicly stated his intention to become TT’s next Prime Minister. Days ago, Duke wrote to the leaders of the One Tobago Voice coalition, calling for a meeting to discuss the general election.
One Tobago Voice comprises Tobago Forwards, Tobago Organisation of the People and Platform of Truth. The coalition is also contesting the two Tobago seats in the general election but is yet to name its candidates.
Within recent months, Duke has been on a campaign to woo voters through an islandwide home improvement initiative which, he claims, is being funded from his own pocket. Webster-Roy said she is unimpressed by Duke’s home enhancement exercise.
She said hundreds of Tobagonians and Tobago East constituents, in particular, have benefitted from grants provided by the THA and central government to assist them with home improvement and construction.
Webster-Roy added the service is delivered to constituents through the support of agencies of the THA and central government.
She said through the National Commission for Self Help, approximately $3,633,445.36 has been distributed between September 2015 and June 2020 to residents of Tobago East.
Webster-Roy said through the Unemployment Relief Programme run by Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, people also benefitted from free labour.
“Elected representatives at the local and national level have been utilising the services and resources provided by the state to assist constituents with home repairs for years.” She said Duke’s initiative is not new.
“It is unfortunate that my opponent only became conscious of the needs of the people of his electoral district on the cusps of an election.
“Had he been present in his electoral district office, he would have been able to provide the same assistance to those persons long before now.”
Webster-Roy also responded to recent claims by some Roxborough fishermen that she did little to assist them after Tropical Storm Karen destroyed their boats last September. Duke has also been helping the fishermen to repair their boats.
Webster-Roy recalled she toured the constituency after the storm hit. “What struck me in my home village of Roxborough was the fact that, despite early warning, most of the fishermen did not seek to secure their vessels.
"As a matter of fact, I was one of the persons at the seafront assisting other villagers to pull in a boat that drifted from the jetty down to the waterfront at Hazel Trace.”
She recalled the next day she returned to Roxborough to find out from the fishermen if their vessels were insured and how she could assist.
The fishermen, she said, told her Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and THA officials, including Secretary for the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment Kwesi Des Vignes and then Chief Secretary, Kelvin Charles, “had visited earlier and the situation was under control.
“I remember what happened quite clearly because I did a Facebook live and posted it on my page. Several persons were admonishing me for being out during the storm, especially when the fishermen did not heed the advice of Met Services to secure their vessels.”
She claimed Duke was not in Roxborough during or after the storm. “He is the elected assembly representative and he chose to leave the country on one of his many international frolics on the eve of the passage of the storm.”
A “proud” Roxborough native, Webster-Roy is also a Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, the National Aids Coordinating Committee and Central Administrative Services, Tobago.
On the campaign trail, Webster-Roy claims people are acknowledging the work being done in the constituency.
She said they also praised the government’s handling of the covid19 pandemic.
“Many persons are highlighting the fact that the pandemic has encouraged them to return to and embrace agriculture once more.”
Nevertheless, there are challenges.
She said unemployment, long the bane of the region, remains a burning issue among the youth population.
To address this problem, Webster-Roy said she has encouraged people with skills to try to use the services and resources available through the THA and central government to monetise their talents and create opportunities for employment.
She added affordable and accessible housing opportunities for Tobagonians is a “persistent cry.
“I hope that through collaboration, the THA and central government can embark on an accelerated housing programme in Tobago East.”
Should she secure a second term, Webster-Roy said she would like to see the establishment of a public transport hub in Tobago East to serve as a transit point for those venturing to the island’s north side from along the windward side of the island.
She is also looking forward to the reconstruction of the jetty in Parlatuvier and the establishment of the fuelling facility for fishermen.
Extensive coastal protection work to stabilise homes along the constituency’s coastline and proper road infrastructure from Mt Grace to Charlotteville and Mason Hall to L’Asne Fourmi are also on her to-do list, she said.