Prime Minister Patrick Manning has been reported as saying
to the media and the public of Tobago: Whatever Tobago
wants, Tobago gets.
Mr Manning might claim that he was speaking in the context
of the heavy rains and landslips caused last year by a short
slap delivered by Hurricane Ivan that went on to devastate
neighbouring Grenada. But there can be no doubt that Manning
was using the disaster to begin the campaigning that in January
was to decide the election for control of the Tobago House
The result was that the PNM won 11 of the 12 seats in the
THA and decimated all opposition in the sister isle.
The unbiased will remember the weekly flooding in the Caparo
Basin and television images of women and girls lifting their
skirts in the rain and walking through the flooded main roads
in their bare panties.
Manning could have said: Whatever Caparo wants, Caparo
gets. But then Caparo is in central Caroni and is firmly
in the grip of the UNC.
The people of Barrackpore have been suffering constant flooding
with the destruction of all roads leading in and out of this
vast agricultural district. But Barrackpore is not in Tobago,
so the people must continue to live in a state of neglect.
In the Debe/Penal catchment, houses have been washed away
and whole districts have been placed under floodwaters repeatedly.
Hardest hit were the farmers who lost their crops and were
offered $41 compensation by the Minister of Agriculture, Jarrette
It is not surprising, therefore, that the price of bhaigan
(aubergine) is $5 a pound and eddoes are now king of the market
stalls at $6 a pound.
And now Tobago wants an additional parliamentary seat as we
debate the need to elect 41 instead of the usual 36 constituencies
that created the 18-18 parliamentary deadlock.
In Tobago itself there is opposition to the additional seat
by the former Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles, who says it
is not in Tobagos best interest. Additional seats are
not advantageous to Tobago.
One additional seat will not fix the airbridge, seabridge
or put an end to the many problems that have bedevilled the
people of Tobago all these years. Look at how many seats the
opposition has and if the Government does not approve what
the opposition ask for they wont get it (Newsday,
The Maha Sabha opposed an additional seat for Tobago because
the numbers do not warrant this 50 per cent increase. An additional
seat will establish that the Tobago voter has greater weight
with his vote than the voter in Trinidad.
The report of the EBC on the parliamentary elections held
on October 7, must form the basis for the realignment of constituencies
and the allocation of additional seats. The gerrymandering
of constituency boundaries have been a consistent complaint
of opposition parties.
The sister isle has two constituencies at present. Tobago
East has an electorate of 17,290 and only 9,877 cast their
votes in the 2002 election. Tobago West has 19,319 electors
and only 10,497 cast their votes in the last elections.
When compared to Trinidad constituencies, Tobagonians already
have greater weight with their ballot.
In Trinidad, the Ortorie/Mayaro constituency has 27,233 electors
and 21,907 cast their votes in the last election. The figure
tells us that more people voted in Ortorie/Mayaro than the
combined ballot cast in the Tobago East and West constituencies.
The Caroni Central constituency for which Hamza Rafeez was
elected has 28,202 on its electoral list and we see that 20,452
electors cast their votesmore than the combined total
of 20,374 in the two Tobago constituencies.
This pattern repeats itself in a number of constituencies
in Trinidad. Arouca holds 27,194 and Arouca South, 28,599
electors. Caroni East holds 28,874 and Chaguanas 28,347. In
fact, every single constituency in Trinidad is already much
larger than either Tobago East or Tobago West.
While Orville London, Chief Secretary of the THA, and the
PNM are clamouring for an additional seat for Tobago, the
voting indicates that the Tobagonian electorate is not even
keen to exercise his franchise. In the last election, out
of a total electorate of 875,260, those who cast their votes
number 609,571. This is equivalent to 69.64 per cent.
But in Tobago, out of a total electorate 36,609, only 20,374
exercised their franchise. This is equivalent to 56 per cent
of the Tobago electoratewell below the national average.
Tobago is apathetic to the electoral process!
MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha