In just under a month from now, voters in oil- and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago will decide whether to dump the administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar amid widespread allegations of corruption and graft and an inability to deal with runaway violent crime, among other simmering societal ills.
However, even as polls show that the administration faces an uphill battle to govern the country of 1.3 million for a second period, tensions in the country have risen sharply in the past week, thanks largely to startling revelations from Opposition Leader Keith Rowley that authorities are willing to pay up to $2.5 million to have him killed before Election Day Sept. 7. He spoke to supporters in sister isle Tobago over the weekend.
It is unclear where Rowley, leader of the People’s National Movement, got information about a hit being placed on his life by officialdom from, but local police are taking no chances, clearly aware that they could be protecting the country’s next prime minister.
“Today, as I speak to you, a few months ago I was in Trinidad and I sat on a platform … and for the first time in my career of over 30 years, I feared for my personal safety. As I speak to you now, I’m surrounded by people who you pay, that is, police, to protect me from people who will have me killed,” he said. His statement came just days after Anika Gumbs, a noted investigative reporter at the leading Trinidad Express Newspaper, resigned, claiming that Rowley had sexually harassed her during two separate visits to his home on official business in recent months, the last time in April.
And like the alleged assassination plot, Rowley, a geologist by profession, is also linking Gumbs’ resignation and her widely published allegations to pre-election plots by a desperate government.
“First time in Trinidad and Tobago, the opposition leader is under attack from the government. And when I’m not under attack from their friends who they hire to kill me, I’m under attack from their friends who they hire to lie about me,” Rowley said. He is originally from Tobago.
With campaigning heating up, the incumbent People’s Partnership administration, largely supported by people of Indian descent has its work cut out against Rowley’s Afro-dominated People’s National Movement.
The alleged hit on Rowley’s head and even the reporter’s allegations have, for the most part, dominated the news cycle on the twin islands, giving authorities much-needed breathing space from growing discontent over corruption and crime.