I urge each and every Tobagonian eligible to vote in the December 6 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections to come out and exercise their franchise.

The right to vote under Universal Adult Suffrage was not always available to our people until its introduction to Trinidad and Tobago in the July 1, 1946, Legislative Elections and subsequently the October 28 County Council elections held that same year.

Universal Adult Suffrage in Trinidad and Tobago is deeply rooted in a struggle marked by social unrest which started in the oil and sugar belts, which led to the 1937 Butler Riots and the subsequent appointment of the 1938 Moyne Commission to investigate such an occurrence since the disturbances were not limited to Trinidad and Tobago, but other British West Indian territories as well—all protesting and rioting for better working and living conditions, and a greater say in the decision-making process that governed these colonies.

The Moyne Commission was therefore also charged with the responsibilities of making recommendations based on its findings on the social, economic and political conditions in the various colonies.

However, while Universal Adult Suffrage was first introduced to Trinidad and Tobago in the 1946 Legislative Council and County Council elections, respectively, it was granted by the British Parliament in 1945 some seven years after the Moyne’s Commission report was fully published with its findings and recommendations which favourably considered a petition for a representative assembly and an increasing demand for universal adult suffrage as a prerequisite for internal self-government.

It therefore advocated social and political reforms and its findings helped hasten the democratisation of the political process in the colonies.

Moreover, between 1925 and 1946, only men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 could vote, with the requirement of property ownership, income and social status as a prerequisite.

Therefore, the 1945 grant allowed every man and woman 21 years and over to exercise their franchise without restrictions, regardless of wealth, property ownership, income, gender, social status or race; and while T&Ts 1976 Republican Constitution extended the franchise for persons 18 years, there is a requirement for everyone 18 years and over to be included on the Elections and Boundaries Commission list of registered electors in order to participate in the electoral democratic process.

Therefore, our right to vote should not be arbitrarily dismissed, as it is a great civic responsibility, a very precious commodity which we must cherish dearly. It is not something we can either barter or sell to the highest bidder.

Our vote is the civil instrument by which we choose the best representatives to manage and guide the affairs of our community and, by extension, our country. Our vote has the power to protect us from unreliable representation. If we do not go out and vote, should we then have the right to complain?

On December 6, THA election day, Tobagonians have to make a great national decision in the interest of Tobago in particular; which political party will govern the THA for the next four years? This decision requires the input of every single voter in Tobago, as this may be the most crucial election to take place in the THA’s history.

Tobago’s electorate can choose a party with the proven experience and track record to strategically lead the Assembly for the next four years as it continues to do battle with the Covid-19 pandemic or, alternatively, elect another party to govern the THA as we go forward into the future as the unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago.

The power of the vote is in the index finger. Please, Tobago, let your vote count and not be wasted on December 6 THA election day.

Rishi Lakhan

via e-mail

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