THE decision announced earlier this week by the now out-going Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Kelvin Charles to step down from his position in a few weeks’ time, has established itself as a powerful example for the resolution of internal disputes among political parties in Trinidad and Tobago.
In what had begun to shape up as a knock-down, drawn-out battle for leadership at the THA, Mr Charles obviously bowed to wiser counsel, coming in large measure from the party’s senior leadership in Port of Spain.
As PNM political leader, the Prime Minister saw it as his essential responsibility to broker the peace settlement which was announced, subsequent to the meeting he led with the major players in Tobago last weekend.
Following the elections for the post of political leader of the Tobago PNM, touted as an autonomous body for the affairs of the party on the island, Mr Charles suffered an image-altering defeat. It came about on the basis of a run-off, because of the inconclusiveness of the votes in the first contest. The two other contenders for the position, the former presiding officer, Dr Denise Tsoi-a-Fatt-Angus and finance secretary Joel Jack, supported the eventual winner, former assemblywoman Tracy Davidson-Celestine, encouraging their supporters to rally around her as well.
Those results clearly conveyed the sense that Mr Charles was not as strong on the ground among party members as perhaps he and his team felt might have been the case.
Ms Davidson-Celestine moved swiftly to call on him to step down as chief secretary, and his team shot back, reading from the play-book which sets out the procedure for a replacement.
In another counter-move, Mr Charles then called on Mr Jack to step down as finance secretary, since he had contested for the leadership and lost. It then appeared that heels were beginning to dig in on both sides and the spectre of an embarrassing, politically destabilising stand-off appeared in the making.
Sensing the significant damage which could have resulted to the party’s overall image, the Prime Minister, the party’s ultimate leader, apparently saw no alternative but to step in. Evidently advising and warning about the unnecessary harm which could have resulted, and using his own currency as a Tobagonian, he led in discussions which created the final outcome.
Sitting beside Mr Charles as he announced his decision to step down, Ms Davidson-Celestine then announced her plan to use consultation in her effort to appoint a team of new councillors.
She will now be expected to honour such a commitment, and with tact and diplomacy, set about effecting the changes made necessary by the result of the election which has now put her in the spotlight in Tobago, and in the Tobago PNM.
Mr Charles should rest assured that he has earned tremendous applause for coming around to the realisation that there often comes a time when the voice of the majority must be accepted. His decision and the graciousness of his announcement go up against the notion that transitions in local politics are forever wrought out of conflict and divisiveness.