On the date corresponding to today in last year’s Carnival calendar, I was tied up in Tobago with pan business, enjoying the morning after our attendance at the medium band 2020 Panorama finals which was held in Tobago.
Now all of Tobago is tied up. There is the deadlock in its House of Assembly following a six-six tie in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).
Shortly before the Pan event in 2020, there was already standoff in Tobago. In January 2020, during the PNM’s internal election campaign, PNM Tobago chairman Stanford Callender’s opposition to Tracy Davidson-Celestine’s attempt to replace him was out in the open.
She complained about a song, allegedly composed by Callender, which she said ‘classifies other candidates vying for political leader as being most suitable for a fashion show or a puppet show and is debasing and misogynistic’. Both Callender’s opponents were women, with the other being Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus.
After the 19 January 2020 internal election, there had to be a run off and Davidson-Celestine had the good fortune to have two of her rivals, Joel Jack and Tsoiafatt Angus, sheathe their own ambitions and support her candidacy—a move that ensured she emerged winner and the political leader of the Tobago PNM.
Inexplicably Tsoiafatt Angus did not get a pick on the slate of candidates led by Davidson-Celestine into the House of Assembly Elections this year. Perhaps, Davidson-Celestine was unaware of the political maxim: ‘Always dance with the one who brought you’.
Now she has to struggle with the PNM’s loss of seats and failure to win the Assembly.
There are no express provisions in any of the legislation governing the Assembly or the conduct and outcome of elections, that provides a means to break a tie or mandates another election on account of a tie.
Meanwhile, with the backing of the prime minister, Ancil Dennis is cleverly consolidating his leadership credentials and PNM power in the secretarial portfolios that remain in the PNM’s hands on a transitional basis. He is pushing for a new elections, but on the basis of a revised number of seats.
It remains my position that there should be a fresh election immediately but on the existing 12 seat basis.
The PNM have a vested interest in amending the Tobago House of Assembly Act to secure some advantage. It is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society that taking legislative action to add seats to the 12 existing ones should await at least one further try to complete the election of an Assembly on the existing basis.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) impartiality in the redrawing of boundaries notwithstanding, the observance of democratic principles becomes an illusion if a party with a vested interest has control of the national Parliament and the choice of legislative prescription to break the tie—as the PNM does.
Meanwhile, the outgoing Tobago Executive Council ought not to have access to the funds provided for the maintenance of Tobago. My view has been fortified by the analysis of the scandalous lack of accountability for those funds by my comrade Reginald Dumas, who has labelled the situation: ‘The dark fog that is the THA’s finances’.
Returning briefly to this crippled 2021 Carnival season, I join in the praise for those putting on pay-per-view events—perhaps mis-labelled in many cases as ‘virtual’ events. They are undeterred by the total withdrawal of the Government and the National Carnival Commission (NCC), who tragically missed the opportunity of a pandemic appropriate investment in the performing arts.
One Tobagonian who is not tied up is Pan Trinbago’s current president, Beverley Ramsey-Moore. She broke the unattractive tie up of medium and large band in the same Panorama finals, starting with last year’s separate medium band final in Tobago as mentioned above.
For 2021, we have the first of two Pan Trinbago pay-per-view pan events at 8 pm tonight.