Afro party to be confirmed winner of Trinidad

Bert Wilkinson | 8/20/2020, midnight
Keith Rowley’s Afro-dominated People’s National Movement (PNM) is expected by midweek to be officially confirmed as the clear winner of ...
National Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

Keith Rowley’s Afro-dominated People’s National Movement (PNM) is expected by midweek to be officially confirmed as the clear winner of general elections in Trinidad and Tobago at the end of opposition inspired recounts in five of the 41 constituencies.

At the start of this week, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (ECB) had completed four of the recounts in constituencies that are considered as marginal seats but it is becoming clear that the demand for such had been misguided as the PNM has maintained wins in four of the five so far. 

“I am not a PNM and I have no intention of joining the PNM. I have challenged the PNM in and out of court for many years but I recognized that this was an electoral race where there will be one winner or one loser. We lost,” local media quoted United National Congress political activist Devant Maharaj as saying.

The recount process from the Aug. 10 elections had placed the swearing in of PM Rowley and his cabinet and the naming of lawmakers for the new session of parliament on hold. Officials said that the majority of ballot boxes for St. Joseph, the last remaining constituency being recounted, could be completed sometime late Monday, paving the way for the process to come to an end.

In winning the 2020 elections, the PNM has been able to stop the march of Indo Caribbean political parties from historically and simultaneously taking power in the three most resource-rich countries in the 15-nation Caribbean Community. Indo parties now control oil, gas, gold, diamond, timber, fishing, bauxite, rice and other resources in Guyana and neighboring Suriname having been named as winner of elections held in March and May respectively. Most of the nations in the grouping do not possess resources in such abundance as these three.

The elections were marred by ugly racial scenes and sometimes not so covert appeals to the two main racial groups in Trinidad as the two traditional rivals vied for votes. In the end, the PNM will control 22 of the 41 seats, having dropped one from the last elections apparently because it had fielded an unpopular candidate over the popular choice of constituents.

As the island settles down after a bruising election, Police Chief Gary Griffith has appealed to supporters from both of the main groups to tone down racial attacks on each other by use of social media postings in particular.

“I ask the nation again to please take a deep breath and stop. This division, hatred, bitterness. It is going to cause confrontation and it can cause violence so in that regard, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, we have now seen it fit to get involved and to ask the country, yet again, to calm down,” Griffith said.

In one case, an Indo senior executive of a major Indo-owned supermarket chain took to social media to use the N word and labelled Blacks who voted for the PNM as cockroaches. The issue caused a major stir. She has since apologized, blaming knee jerk anger for her rant.

Meantime, UNC leader and losing candidate for two consecutive elections Kamla Persad-Bissessar says he is also deeply troubled by the increase in racial tensions despite the fact that she herself had come under fire for describing PM Rowley as a black man who is incapable of leading the country.

“I am deeply troubled. The political party I lead condemns and rejects racism, and calls on all citizens to unite in order to heal and build TT. The UNC has always worked to ensure that we represent and uplift all citizens and improve their lives. The PM is clearly and purposefully” trying to “inflame racial tensions” with “baseless” comments,” she said in a statement as the PNM prepares to continue in office and battle with an increasing number of COVID positive cases and deaths.