The Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) is dissatisfied with the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC’s) proposals for the 15 electoral districts in the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.
The Prime Minister laid the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) (Tobago) Order 2021 in the House of Representatives on Friday, which paves the way for fresh THA elections, to break the current six-six deadlock between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).
The order, which is being debated on Wednesday in Parliament, requires a simple majority for passage.
In a statement on Monday, IDA political leader Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus said the reconfiguration of the boundaries showed no regard for the people who will be affected by the changes.
“It is unfortunate that the reconfiguration of the boundaries for communities has shown a lack of appreciation for lives, livelihoods and families to be impacted during this critical juncture in Tobago’s future,” she said.
“While we understand the seriousness with which the EBC must have approached their mandate, the culture and uniqueness of Tobago took second place to a numbers game.
“One would hope that the objective of the additional electoral districts was to facilitate more effective and more efficient representation for the people.”
Tsoiafatt Angus did not refer to any specific electoral districts but said if Tobago’s need for wider representation was really to be served, more emphasis should have been placed on “equitable changes across the island, rather than being isolated along party lines.
“Everyone is aware that in the court of public opinion, perception bears more weight than reality and with the current report, the people would be inclined to believe that yet again, their interests are not being served by the government of the day.”
She added, “In fact, one would have expected that some type of consultative approach with the people of Tobago on this issue would have been the process used, with this very important decision on their future.”
Tsoiafatt Angus said the party will continue to promote a more democratic approach to governance.
“This country is 60-plus years post-colonial era with a more informed electorate and the time is upon us where the people having their say should be a normal process rather than a special event.”
Activist Xavier Edwardz urged the PNM, PDP and IDA to keep an open mind about the proposed boundaries.
“The EBC had a job to do, and they did. While it may appear as though the changes, primarily effected on the western side of the island can favour the PNM, we are living in radical times, and times as such always comes with uncertainties,” Edwardz told Newsday
“As clearly illustrated by NACTA (poll) for THA 2021, appearances and even sample polls have little to do with how Tobagonians vote. So, for the representative hopefuls, PNM, PDP, and newly minted IDA, I suggest that you don’t waste time bickering this election. There are a few important topics which you all know that Tobagonians are keenly interested in your views on them.”
Saying Tobagonians will be paying closer attention to the election, Edwardz also urged politicians to be wise, mature, honest and innovative in their campaigning.
“Tobago is awakening and with eyes wide open, the vision is becoming much clearer.”
On Saturday, PDP political leader Watson Duke, questioned the EBC’s rationale for determining the electoral districts.
But he said the party was not daunted but poised to win all 15 electoral districts in the election.
He said the PDP will comment further after the debate in the Parliament.
The PNM Tobago Council said it is also ready for the THA election.
The council’s political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the laying of the order in the Parliament is a step in the right direction.
“From day one, this party advocated letting the voters decide with a return to the polls. It has been the only clear solution to the deadlock.”