May 27, 2010 Editorial Comments Off on Trinidad should be a wake up call
There is a new government in Trinidad and Tobago and this was known about six hours after the polls closed. Even the vote from the twin-island, Tobago, was known very early. First, we need to look at the run up to the elections.
Six weeks earlier, the then Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced the polls. There was no quarrel about voters’ list or about readiness. It is as if Trinidad and the other Caribbean islands are always in a state of elections readiness. This is something that Guyana has failed in the fifty-four years since the introduction of Universal Adult Suffrage.
Over the past decade Guyana has been trying to get its electoral register right. After millions of dollars in expenditure and many wasted hours this is still to be the case. It must be that Guyanese are incapable of compiling a list of names and addresses despite two house-to-house registrations.
In neighbouring Suriname, there is also not the same problem although the geography is not dissimilar from Guyana’s. In that country, the results of the elections would be known within hours. Ballots would have to come from the hinterland but they would be counted and announced before the end of 24 hours.
In Guyana it takes almost three weeks before the results of an election are known. We still get it wrong because we cannot tally votes. The reason is simply that the people who have the responsibility to tally the votes have political self interest.
In Guyana, the country has been spending 14 years and counting preparing for local government elections. It must be that we are not ready for any kind of elections.
The Trinidad elections have exposed another shortcoming in Guyana. Patrick Manning and his People’s National Movement have been ousted because of scandals and corruption. His supporters simply told him that they had had enough and that they were not prepared to live with such rape of the country.
If one were to look at the demography the ethnic composition favours the people of African ancestry but time and again the ethnicity of the leader matters not one jot. When Basdeo Panday won the elections it was the same thing. That he lost it after one term was due to the people around him who began to mouth racial concepts. The Trinidadians would have none of it.
What the Trinidad polls really demonstrates is that the people vote on issues. We will not seek to make similar comparisons with the United States where the population is overwhelmingly White but where that country now has a Black President.
We will also refrain from using countries like Barbados and Antigua and even Grenada where governments change because these societies are more homogenous. People in those countries are more prone to vote on issues.
Jamaica is another homogenous society and there the vote is split along sharp party lines. Each party has its base support but governments still change on issues because people generally are not compelled to vote along party lines as is the case in the United States.
In Trinidad there were pollsters who insisted that the People’s National Movement has what they called safe seats. Patrick was supposed to have 17 safe seats which meant that he could not enter the Parliament with less that these seventeen seats. The result has proven otherwise. People in those safe seats opted to vote for the person they felt would be the better to run the country.
Freddie Kissoon, each day, carps on the entrenched racial voting trends in Guyana. He belabours the point that regardless how the party treats its supporters these supports continue to vote it into power, according to Freddie Kissoon, to continue to be the recipients of bad treatment and disrespect.
Why is this so? The politicians capitalized on the ethnic distrust with the result that people simply say, “We would rather suffer with our kith and kin that to allow another to do the same to us.” When all is said and done Trinidad and Tobago should be a lesson to us.
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