SUNDAY’S run-off vote which has comprehensively determined the future of the Tobago arm of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) has offered revealing insights into the state of the party on the sister island.
Judging by the remarks of the eventual winner, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, it appears that tremendous work has to be done as the party seeks to maintain its hold on governance in Trinidad and in Tobago.
That the sitting Secretary for Finance and the Presiding Officer both threw their hat in the ring in the first place were early signs that things were not well with the balisier brigade in Tobago. We will remember that when Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus left her post as Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Presiding Officer, she was coy about what her next moves would be, saying only that would have more time to meet and interact with the people.
As a loyal member of the team, and the second in command judging from his position as Secretary for Finance, Mr Joel Jack must have felt the need for new energy and dynamism in the party. He told reporters he had answered a call from some of his, and the party’s supporters, to become involved in the leadership stakes in the party’s Tobago Island Council.
Mrs Davidson-Celestine decided to leave her post as Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador to Costa Rica to return home and vie for the post she has now captured. This particular decision has few parallels, one of which was the decision of Mervyn Assam to contest the chairmanship of the then ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction ahead of his position then as this country’s High Commissioner to the UK. This was in the period 1986 to 1991.
But in the instant case, it’s a most telling development that both Mr Jack and Dr Tsoiafatt-Angus threw their lot in behind Mrs Davidson-Celestine after the inconclusive first round balloting in Sunday’s run-off, and asked their supporters to join with them. It speaks of a desire for change coming from deep inside the party.
Davidson-Celestine received 61 per cent of the votes cast in the run-off to Mr Charles’s 39 per cent, a margin of almost two to one against the man at the helm.
Mrs Davidson-Celestine had issued a 100-day plan for revitalisation of the party in Tobago, and for the ostensible reconnection with supporters, and the electorate at large, across the island. She spoke about the need for “reconciliation”, after the campaign against her which was seen in some quarters as sexist and demeaning. She has spoken as well of her intention to unite what appears to have been a divide developed between the memberships in Tobago East, and in the West.
It is therefore not surprising that her victory has been seen as only the first sign of a political “earthquake” in PNM Tobago, with more tremors to follow. These are likely to include the fact that she remains without a position in the Assembly, the first time a party leader is not also at the same time Chief Secretary. In the current scenario, she has as yet no place in the Chamber. And from what our reporting has revealed, other heads are likely to roll among sitting Assembly members.
A complete revamp appears underway, with a lot at stake here for the ruling party before the dust settles on Sunday’s political storm.