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Let ideas contend

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It is good to see both Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley starting to focus more on outlining their ideas for the future development of Trinidad and Tobago as they intensify their campaign for the general elections that are now imminent. 

This is a far cry from a few weeks ago when the UNC’s campaign was dominated by personal barbs directed at Dr Rowley, and what seemed a coordinated and focused attack on Faris Al-Rawi, who seemed to represent a real threat to the PP’s sitting member of parliament for San Fernando West. 

Dr Rowley himself had to apologise for the ‘dog and cat’ comments made in Brazil Village on March 17. The negative public reaction to both suggested that the country had greater expectations of those aspiring to and holding high office than the politicians themselves seemed to realise.

As a result, the Prime Minister, who had been leading the charge, has noticeably dialled back the intensity of her personal attacks against Dr Rowley, and he has himself been more careful with his language in his stump speeches. Both are to be commended for not only responding to public opinion, but also for recognising the need to provide the information for voters will to choose between their parties. 

Mrs Persad-Bissessar, for example, has made the provision of low and middle-income housing, improved road links and infrastructure a key element of her bid for re-election. Dr Rowley is touting the reform of the delivery of local government services—and improved road links too—as key parts of his party’s manifesto.

The last two weeks have shown a commendable focus on the real issues facing Trinidad and Tobago, including the decline in the country’s energy resources, the delivery of government services, and the daily traffic gridlock to which we are now prone. Both the government and opposition have outlined their plans. That is as it should be. The dustup over who should claim real ownership of the Chaguaramas Causeway should be the staple fare of this election campaign. 

It’s refreshing to see the parties arguing over ownership of a plan that would help to resolve one of T&T’s most pressing problems—road congestion—rather than issues such as dubious parentage. The issues that affect the lives of John and Jean Public are what will define and sharpen voter choice in the election campaign, and the parties seem to be recognising that.

Politics is a tough game, and it’s not realistic to expect that campaigns would be free of personal attacks. They often ask questions related to character, and a candidate’s character shortcomings could tell a voter how they would behave in office. The important thing is to recognise the limits, as Ms Alleyne-Toppin so conspicuously failed to do. 

It is more about making a case to the voters about why they should choose you and your candidates, and not so much about how bad the other side is, fair though it often is to point that out. Let the battle of ideas continue.


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