A FEW DAYS ago, this newspaper – as well as several commentators – questioned the seemingly brazen manner in which political campaigning in Tobago was being conducted ahead of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election due next month.
From political platforms, election goodies have been thrown in the air like free T-shirts once were at rallies, with no concern for the way these flash-in-the-pan promises are to be funded or how they come perilously close to appearing like attempts at inducement.
It seems in response to all the criticism, political parties have decided to abandon even the slightest pretence of offering manifesto promises or policy positions. Instead, aspects of the campaign have descended into nothing short of bacchanal.
From promises of handing out land and building hotels, the discussion now seems to be about who leaked which viral video, how many children one candidate has, who is on a rape charge, who said what about her colleagues in private and who needs to be “rescued.”
We are almost tempted to say the brazen bribery was preferable.
There have been some voices crying in the wilderness, trying to keep some focus on issues. Leader of the Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus has criticised the PNM Government for the early wrap-up of the state of emergency, saying it was an example of the central government making decisions for Tobago.
Dr Tsoiafatt Angus pledged to “stay out of bacchanal politics, and stay steady in showing the people of Tobago that good governance and not rhetoric is what will see us rise as the phoenix out of the ashes of this pandemic.”
Former chief secretary Hochoy Charles asked why the issue of autonomy had not been dealt with before the election.
Mr Charles, who in January called for a boycott of that month’s THA elections, made a case for voters not to go back to the polls, saying the whole process was a mockery.
“We should have been speaking with one voice,” he said. “It’s a senseless election.”
If the politicians continue along their path, Mr Charles may be proven right.
It is true elections in this country have a long history of featuring out-of-hand picong. But the current prurience surpasses even the infamous “Calcutta ship” remark that dominated one THA election cycle years ago.
It is ironic to see a revival in calls for political codes of conduct amid all of this.
Such codes always seem good on paper, but we need only point to the flouting of already-existing rules administered by the Council for Responsible Behaviour, as well as the Integrity Commission, to appreciate that it is self-discipline, not regulation, that is sorely lacking.
Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus