By Newsday Staff
January 22, 2013 – newsday.co.tt
THE INCUMBENT People’s National Movement (PNM) obliterated the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) in yesterday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, winning all 12 seats. The Tobago electoral map was literally painted in the PNM’s colour — red.
From as early as 9 pm, it was clear that the PNM had easily pushed the TOP into second place in virtually all seats, with The Platform for Truth (TPT) party trailing a distant third everywhere.
TOP leader Ashworth Jack, the former THA minority leader, lost his Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah seat which was won by the PNM for the first time ever. TPT leader Hochoy Charles, a past THA chief secretary, failed to win the Plymouth/Golden Lane seat he once held.
This is the fourth time in a row that the PNM has won the THA election and sets out London for another four years on top of his past 12 years as THA chief secretary.
The PNM in 2001 won eight seats to the four won by the NAR; in 2005 it won 11 seats to the DAC’s one seat; in 2009 it won eight seats to the TOP’s four and last night, it won 100 percent — 12 out of 12.
This election saw a whopping 70 percent of registered electors voting more than the 56 percent in the 2009 THA polls. In giving the PNM a clean sweep, Tobago voters yesterday sharply reversed their vote in the 2010 general elections when they elected the TOP’s Vernella Toppin-Alleyne and Dr Delmon Baker.
Yesterday was also the first time the PNM ever won the Mason Hall seat, hitherto held by Ashworth Jack. The PNM’s Hilton Sandy was re-elected to his seat of Roxborough/Delaford, despite his “Calcutta ship” controversy, beating his TOP rival by 1,422 to 1,198 votes.
Last night, the influx of results at Scarborough created jubilation at PNM Tobago headquarters, while the TOP camp had an air of a funeral.
In an immediate response, Jack took responsibility for his party’s shock obliteration and said that within the coming days, he would consider his political future.
At 10 pm, London gave a victory speech hailing the result but calling on electors to now put Tobago ahead of any party political interest. He said the THA cannot do everything alone and called on Tobagonians to adopt a new outlook to help build the island. London called for a “total rethink of attitudes and postures over the past two and a half years” in the relationship between the PNM-led THA and the People’s Partnership Government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in the best interest of the people of Tobago.
London wanted both to meet in an environment of, “amicable resolution, meaningful consultation and mutual respect”, to discuss reform of the THA and the Constitution. He also urged Government to pay the THA its “best inauguration gift” of an allegedly outstanding $625 million in allocations.
“Tonight I feel humbled, challenged and inspired…all at the same time,” said London as all around him bells were rung and a PNM supporter even waved her cocoyea broom joyously in the air. “This is not an Orville London victory or a PNM victory. This is a victory for the people of Tobago,” London said. Urging Tobago unity after a polarising campaign, he said, “We can’t allow that polarisation and divisiveness to mark and brand us, going forward. From tonight, the election is over and the people must work together for the people of Tobago.” This unity was shown by him not wearing a PNM jersey, he told listeners.
London vowed new strategies and governance structures to transform the Tobago landscape, so Tobagonians can have more say in their own affairs apart from their THA ballot every four years. He said Tobagonians must take responsibility so as to claim self-sufficiency and autonomy. Paying tribute to the isle’s youth, he said he’d never been prouder of them.
Opposition and PNM Leader Dr Keith Rowley, then addressed cheering supporters, loudly praising the work of London. A dejected TOP leader Ashworth Jack later addressed a media conference.
At 10.04 pm, Persad-Bissessar issued a statement of concession via email, but did not go to TOP headquarters to publicly speak. Her statement sought to rally deflated spirits of the defeated and be conciliatory toward the victors. She said the people of Tobago had spoken.
“This has been a tough political battle and the choice for Tobagonians between change and a perpetuation of an administration which has been in place for 12 years,” said Persad-Bissessar. “Tobagonians, in an overwhelming majority, chose to stay with the Orville London-led THA, and as I have always said, the voice of the people, is the voice of God. I wish to extend congratulations to Mr London and the PNM for the resounding victory secured at the THA polls,” her statement continued.
She assured London and Tobagonians that the Government would work with the THA in the interest of developing Tobago for the benefit of all. “To our own supporters I say do not despair. In the words of poet Maya Angelou, ‘while one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated’,” said Persad-Bissessar.
“There is much to be learnt from this and from which strong character can emerge. It is a time for introspection and resolve. A time to gather valuable insights that will serve us well in the months and years ahead.
“To each of you who worked tirelessly, I express my heartfelt gratitude. Somewhere down the road your efforts will bring you the returns and the victory will be sweeter. But for now, let us be mindful that the election is over. Let us put aside our political differences and embrace each other. All that matters now is the development of Tobago which we will work together to develop.”