Saturday Express Editorial

ON the heels of having appointed a committee aimed at revival in urban communities mainly in and around Port of Spain, the Prime Minister has announced August 10 as the general election date.

The election comes at a moment when citizens in several communities are voicing complaints about neglect and discontent among the country’s youth as demonstrated in the protests which held the country’s attention in the early days of this week. In the main, these protests were mobilised in communities controlled by the Prime Minister’s party, and where voters have remained loyal to the Balisier, in the period since 1956.

After having begun the process months ago for the screening and selection of candidates, it was just on Thursday the ruling party completed its slate for the 41 seats to be contested. This was in Port of Spain South, one of several constituencies in which the party had to have more than one go at candidate selection. In what was mere hours before yesterday’s eagerly awaited announcement, the party selected Port of Spain attorney Keith Scotland as its candidate for this heartland constituency.

The United National Congress (UNC), the party in Opposition, in the now defunct 2015-2020 Parliament, is set to conclude its candidate selection exercise this weekend, with a majority of key constituencies already decided.

A lot is at stake as the campaign swings into full throttle, in a season that is just five weeks long.

The ruling party will no doubt go all out to embellish its message over these last five years as the party of decency in office, of good governance and of financial rectitude.

The UNC will continue seeking to hammer home its message of a Government that has lacked the requisites for managing in today’s world. Just yesterday, the Opposition Leader was accusing the Prime Minister of incompetence as she responded to the appointment of the special team to address burning issues in the so-called urban “hotspots”.

As the campaign kicks off in earnest this weekend, it is as good a time as any to remind all the players of the need to keep it clean. The Council for Responsible Political Behaviour has already issued guidelines for the conduct of speakers on the platforms and in the general execution of all activities regarding the campaign. These include prohibitions against character assassination of candidates and/or members of their families and, where the Government especially is concerned, cautions against the temptation to use State resources for campaigning or electioneering.

The council has warned that where it notices any infractions, it will bring them to the attention of the public.

One critical element of this campaign is it will be conducted in the midst of all the protocols surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Included here are the wearing of masks in public and social distancing, such that public congregation of more than 25 persons is not allowed.

These will make for a new feature in the campaign, creating a unique atmosphere in which the people’s franchise is being sought.

We must go forward now and demonstrate over the next five weeks the political maturity of which we have become known, selecting the team that will take charge of our political and administrative affairs over the next parliamentary term.

Foremost among the considerations will be the certainty that the world as we know it has been rendered a radically different space, with new norms being developed as we speak.

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Louis D Brandeis was a well known Justice of the US Supreme Court. In 1913, three years before his appointment, while an outspoken advocate for financial and government transparency as a means of curbing corruption, he wrote a piece in Harper’s Weekly magazine in support of the regulation of banks. In it he made the statement: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

It bears repeating that every poll is a snapshot of opinion at a particular moment in time. In the case of pre-election polling, much can change between a poll and election day due to game-changing events or strategy changes by the political interests involved.

I am deeply disturbed the Commonwealth Observer Mission will not be here. Whilst we have a tradition of free and fair elections, there is no guarantee it will continue. We must remain vigilant, especially since it is very difficult to trust this Prime Minister and leading ministers.

Eight days from today, Kamla Persad-Bissessar expects to be named Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago after she leads the United National Congress to victory in the general election.

In 1955 when I was growing up in Tacarigua, Michael Kangalee, who lived in a nearby village of El Dorado, was one of my best friends.

We attended Tacarigua AC School and were members of the St Mary’s Anglican Church. As soon as the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) came into being we were forced to take sides. I supported the PNM and Michael supported the DLP.

LAST week there were two apparently disconnected stories whose link we may not have discerned, but which profoundly affects our future.

The first was the Express (Monday July 27) report on the alleged $549M EMBD bid-rigging case which noted, “…some of the same contractors donated financially toward the current government…”.