THE NEED for politicians of all stripes to set the right tone ahead of the general election could not be more powerfully demonstrated than by the disturbing reports of violence at the Oropouche West constituency last Saturday.
According to accounts, a group of individuals were blocked at Suchit Trace and at least one man beaten with a baton. This was apparently the culmination of a series of exchanges in which PNM and UNC supporters sparred. A video circulating on social media bore resemblance to the reports.
This must be properly investigated.
In this regard, it is unfortunate police officers at the scene reportedly declined to intervene. Such officers may well have had good reasons for urging individuals to file an official report at a police station.
But the lack of immediate intervention potentially speaks volumes about their own views on such incidents and/or the limited resources at their disposal.
Either way, it is distressing. Police have powers to stop crimes as they unfold. What if the situation had escalated? What if an enraged assailant or victim decided to go further?
Worryingly, this is not the only report of violence so far. Last month, a candidate for the Movement for Social Justice gave an account of being assaulted by a man on a walkabout in Fyzabad.
All of it is a dramatic deterioration of the mood in a season that began with scenes of rival supporters ignoring social distancing in order to embrace one another.
There are a lot of factors at play in these troubling dynamics. But one is certainly the example set by political leaders.
As famous as it was as an act of rhetoric, the statement by a prime minister that his party will “beat them” in the north, south, east and west is the kind of thing that should be avoided.
The tone set in recent weeks has also been unpromising. In-between some discussion of plans and ideas, all sides have been asking voters to fill in the blanks.
Use of crass, cowardly and careless innuendoes, we have been reminded again, is not limited by gender: senior female politicians have attacked candidates in terms that betray stunning ignorance, to put it charitably.
Ironically, women themselves are subject to double standards in our society, especially in politics where this season has seen female candidates smeared by way of videos. How do we encourage hopeful and yearning people to come forward to serve if those with status, longstanding-pedigree and power use their pulpit to be petty?
There is a long and disgraceful history of politicians deliberately stoking animosity on the eve of an election. The unedifying example of our neighbour to the north, where an embattled President Trump is willing to hurl at his opponents any words that strike him as useful weapons, quite regardless of the consequences, comes to mind.
Do TT leaders really want to be in such company?