By Tobago Council People’s National Movement
No political party has ever been perfect. All political parties, like most people, would have blundered badly at some time and would have had to recover from unfortunate decisions of their leader; embarrassing election defeats; declining popularity and stinging criticisms from the press and the public. It is particularly intriguing that it is during these “worst of times” that parties display the same positive or negative attributes that they would have displayed “in the best of times.”
In 2010, the People’s National Movement was forced to regroup after a massive loss in the early general election called by the then political leader, Patrick Manning. Of course, there was recrimination and finger pointing and blame laying, but after that initial fallout, the leader had resigned; a new leader had been chosen and the party had embarked on a period of revival and eventual resurgence. Despite its challenges, the party remained focused on its major objective to serve the people and to prepare itself and even purge itself in order to achieve that objective.
The present convulsions within the Tobago Organization of the People are in marked contrast to that approach. After embarking on the most expensive election campaign in the history of Tobago politics; after enlisting the might of their partners and puppet masters; after utilizing all organs of the State machinery; after using every dirty trick; after a campaign of vicious character assassination, blatant bribery and open threats; the Tobago Organization of the People suffered a comprehensive and humiliating defeat at the polls. The immediate response from the TOP spokespersons and their UNC bosses was to blame the defeat on race and the naiveté of the Tobago electorate. There seemed to be no introspection, no evaluation of the factors which would have caused a rejection by those Tobago voters who had embraced the party, just two years before. The TOP leader who must have been a major contributor to the defeat because of the yet unexplained acquisition of his Mt. St. George mansion; his understandable reluctance to make the relevant submissions to the Integrity Commission and his clumsy attempt to cheat on a nationally televised public debate, pretended to resign, and was immediately reinstated. The ensuing bacchanal and public posturing over the process for the TOP elections are only the latest symptoms of a malaise which has been evident in this party, throughout its existence. The TOP is a party led by vicious, power hungry leaders who will attack, with rabid ferocity, anyone who threatens their respective agendas.
The Tobago public must not be fooled by the recent efforts of some of the major players to portray themselves as reasonable, and individuals who are respectful of other people and who really care about Tobago and its institutions. We must remind ourselves that Christlyn Moore who now postures as the sober, legalistic advisor, is the same Christlyn Moore who labelled Tobago leaders as “mangy dogs.” We must not forget that Dr. Delmon Baker who is now being marketed by some elements as the next political leader is the same Delmon Baker who launched the most vicious and nastiest political attacks on fellow Tobagonians during the recent Tobago House of Assembly election campaign. Present Chairman Lionel Coker will never be able to erase his “buffoon” label, and his opponent Vernella Alleyne-Toppin will continue to wear her “Shopping Toppin” brand. It is even more significant and sinister that all the aspirants have remained highly supportive of a People’s Partnership Government whose atrocities have evoked outrage, even among its most ardent supporters. Ashworth Jack, Delmon Baker, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Anslem Richards, Lionel Coker, Christlyn Moore, Carlisle Dick; all the leaders and aspiring leaders of the Tobago Organization of the People, must tell the Tobago public why they continue to collude in the undermining of the autonomy of the Tobago House of Assembly and the erosion of the dignity of Tobagonians. They must explain their “after election” silence on the Internal Self-government issue which was one of the major planks of their election campaign. They must convince us that they have the capacity to add value to the Tobago cause; that they have the moral courage to reject position and power, and that they are finally prepared to place the interest of their Tobago brothers and sisters before the agendas of their UNC bosses.
The messy battle for the TOP leadership is likely to continue for some time and will obviously be of public interest. However, the Tobago public will soon be convinced that it is a battle within the ranks of the irrelevant. Tobagonians have gone past a Tobago Organization of the People whose roots are no longer planted in Tobago. Tobagonians have rejected leaders who have abandoned the Tobago cause. Tobagonians are only prepared to support organizations and leaders who can convince them that they are prepared to “Stand in Defence of Tobago.”
The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement renews its pledge to continue in its defence of this island, its institutions and its people.