Tobago youth bodies divided on election campaign strategy

Tobago Writers Guild president Xavier Edwardz  -
Tobago Writers Guild president Xavier Edwardz -

The Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA’s) announcement of a further $50 million grant for hoteliers, guest house operators and displaced workers in tourism sector to mitigate the ongoing effects of the covid19 pandemic has elicited a mixed response among Tobago’s youth.

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced the measure on Wednesday at the post-executive council news conference, saying $15 million will go to the accommodation sector while $5 million will be for small and medium businesses.

He said $20 million is to be set aside for displaced workers in the tourism sector while $10 million will be made available to the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd for the digitisation of businesses in the sector.

With just over two weeks to go before the election, Tobago Youth Council (TYC) president Janae Campbell told Sunday Newsday while the initiative is commendable and much-needed, “Anyone with sound judgement would realise that the timing of this announcement is rather convenient.”

She observed many people have also “categorised” the measure as “yet another election gimmick.”

“We see roads being paved across the island weeks before the election. While we appreciate these developments, it must be said that our leaders should not wait until an election period to provide the much-needed infrastructural development. The incumbent probably believes that these last-minute initiatives can probably buy votes.”

While it may be an effective strategy in some cases, Campbell believes the electorate has generally grown weary of such tactics.

“We big and we have sense. These are the words we have been hearing on the ground.”

In fact, she claimed the two major parties contesting the election – the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) have both been accused of bribing Tobagonians with money and other inducements.

“This is not the kind of politics we should be encouraging.”

Tobago Writers Guild president Xavier Edwardz, speaking from a personal standpoint, welcomed the $50 million initiative in the spirit in which it was intended.

“I’m grateful for the effort to ease the economic strain so many persons have been under during this time,” he told Sunday Newsday.

“I’m a recording and performing artiste so my main source of income, like so many others, has been gravely affected and the support from the government hasn’t been at the level one would have hoped it could be.”

Tobago Youth Conncil president Janae Campbell. -

“This gesture is welcomed, especially in Tobago where the tourism economy has been hit so hard. Economic support from one’s own government in a time like this shouldn’t be internalised as one’s deciding factor in how they should vote. Sober thinking is what’s needed. Sobriety of mind is needed in this time.”

Campbell was critical of the speeches on the campaign, thus far. She observed too much time is being spent on character assassination and picong and not enough emphases on plans for moving the island forward.

“In instances where plans were told, the information is usually very vague. We believe the populace needs a clear outline of how the relevant parties intend to execute their promises. Instead of just saying, ‘We will be more transparent,’ tell the people exactly how. Our politicians need to spend more time elaborating on their plans.”

Campbell believes both parties are guilty of this.

“The PDP spends a lot of time scrutinising the work of the PNM without giving us a clear sense of how exactly they would be different. Similarly, the PNM spend a lot of time speaking about Watson (Duke) and the PSA. The PNM has been speaking about not knowing who is the true leader of the PDP and that is yet another wasted point. Let’s focus on issues and solutions primarily.”

Edwardz shared a different perspective about the content of the campaign speeches. He believes the voting population has matured.

“I’m glad to see an improvement in both quantity and quality of public conversation about the issues. The consciousness and involvement of the people have changed and it’s important for parties and persons offering themselves for service to recognise that, if they haven’t already.

“The thing about habits is that they are hard to change so for persons and parties who have developed certain habits and methods shifting may be easier said than done.”

Edwardz observed “brave voices” from all walks of life are speaking out on issues “even in the face of the fear of discrimination."

“As both an artiste and a member of Tobago CivilNET, I am grateful to say that individually and collectively we have been continuing to energise our vision for a more empowered and conscious people with greater interest and participation in collective decision-making. In absence of accepting our responsibility, we won’t be able to intelligently respond when situations arise.”

Despite the Carnival-like atmosphere at last Monday's the Nomination Day exercise, Edwardz does not think unruly gatherings will be an issue in the run-up to the election.

“The crowds at the campaign I see as no issue. Most of these events are outdoors and protocols are observed.”

However, he did acknowledge the potential for the crowds to get out of hand.

Apart from scores of supporters who turned out on Nomination Day, Campbell observed campaign management, so far, has not been a major issue.

“We have not seen any ridiculously large crowds as people have opted to view campaign meetings online. We believe it is important for people to remember that we are still in a pandemic and maintaining social distancing is of paramount importance.”

Anticipating there will be large gatherings at meetings in the remaining days of the campaign, Campbell said she hopes police officers will carry out their duties effectively “as we continue to see a proliferation in the incidence of positive covid19 cases.”

Campbell said the TYC is a non-partisan entity, and said the incoming THA administration must be willing to meet the needs of the island’s young people.

She said the organisation is hoping for a subvention to fulfil some of its objectives.

“This was an arrangement in the past but it has not been facilitated for a long time. The present executive is adamant about receiving the due assistance from the THA in order to fulfil our mandate to prepare Tobago’s youth for the world.”


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