THE EDITOR: I urge each and every citizen who is eligible to vote on August 10 in the general election to go out and exercise their franchise. The right to vote under universal adult suffrage was not available to our people until its introduction in the July 1, 1946, legislative election and subsequently the October 28 county council election held the same year.
Universal adult suffrage in TT is deeply rooted in a struggle marked by social unrest which started in the oil and sugar belts, leading to the 1937 Butler riots and the subsequent appointment of the 1938 Moyne Commission to investigate the unrest, since it spread to other British West Indian territories, all demanding better working and living conditions and a greater say in the decision making process of these colonies.
The commission was therefore also charged with making recommendations on the social, economic and political conditions in the various islands.
However, while universal adult suffrage was first introduced to TT in 1946 it was granted by the British Parliament in 1945, seven years after the commission’s report was fully published.
The commission considered a petition for a representative assembly and an increasing demand for universal adult suffrage as a prerequisite for internal self-government. It therefore advocated social and political reforms and its findings helped hasten the democratisation of the political process in the colonies.
Between 1925 and 1946 only men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 could vote, with property ownership, income and social status as prerequisites. The 1945 British decision allowed every man and woman, 21 years and over, to exercise their franchise without restrictions, regardless of wealth, property ownership, income, gender, social status or race.
And while TT’s 1976 Republican Constitution extended the franchise to people 18 years, there is a requirement for everyone 18 years and over to be on the Elections and Boundaries Commission list of registered electors in order to vote.
Therefore, our right to vote should not be arbitrarily dismissed as it is a great civic responsibility, which we must cherish dearly. Our vote is the instrument by which we choose the government to manage and guide the affairs of the country. Our vote has the power to protect us from unreliable representation. If we do not go out and vote should we then have the right to complain?
On Election Day citizens have to make a great national decision – which political party will govern us for the next five years. This decision requires the input of every single voter as this may be the most crucial election in the history of our country.
We can choose a party with the proven experience and track record to lead us as we continue to do battle with the covid19 pandemic or we can reverse the results of the 2015 general election and a elect another party to govern us.
The power of the vote is in the index finger, please let your vote count and not be wasted on August 10.