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(Trinidad Express August 11, 2020) The PNM has held on to government with a 22/19 election result, giving it a three-seat majority.
The party, which won 23 seats in the last general election in 2015, lost the Moruga/Tableland seat which it had won by the slimmest margin—533 votes— in 2015 and therefore the seat that it was most likely to lose.
It didn’t help that the PNM candidate, Winston “Gypsy” Peters, was seen as a rejected UNC candidate who, to the disappointment of many people, didn’t live in the area. The UNC candidate by contrast is from St Mary’s Village in the PNM’s stronghold within the constituency and she had been a successful councillor for two terms. Party insiders agreed that the PNM made a bad call with the candidate.
A relieved-looking Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in his victory speech at Balisier House last night: “It has not been an easy task. It has not been, was not an easy win but the PNM stayed the course and once again has been called to provide the people of Trinidad and Tobago with good governance that it expects from the People’s National Movement. In a difficult situation PNM has been once again called to service for Trinidad and Tobago.”
The Prime Minister said the result confirmed his faith in the people of Trinidad and Tobago. “We have contested and contested hard but at the end of the day the prize was the majority of the seats to form the Government,” he said.
The future is bright
Speaking about the future, the Prime Minister said: “The future of Trinidad and Tobago is bright. We have some difficult days ahead. But as dark clouds may bring showers, thunderstorms and lightning behind that is the bright sunshine and the warmth. So the passage of the storm is to be survived and the good weather after is to be enjoyed. Our projections are that the next two years would be difficult, very difficult. But during that period, we are required to do certain things that will put us in a better position to enjoy the rest of that future, which is guaranteed to us.” Rowley spoke of a changing of the guard, almost signalling that this would be his last election and he intends to pass the baton.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this can easily be my last term in politics in Trinidad and Tobago. I am not one of those politicians who believe that when you come into office, you should go out feet first. I have places to go and people to see,” he said, hugging his wife, Sharon. “But more importantly, I have a commitment to ensure that this is a period of transition in the PNM. And as the longest-serving member in the Parliament who will continue to serve another term, I have a duty and a responsibility during this term to fashion the PNM’s future by ensuring that our young people are developed in such a way that when I am no longer in this position to announce an election victory, that the country will not be deprived of the leadership it deserves,” the Prime Minister stated.
Saying that he will ensure that the young people he mentored and monitored move into greater responsibility, the Prime Minister said: “So Trinidad and Tobago is in a period of transition but I would not shirk my responsibility to the people of Trinidad and Tobago who have elected me as prime minister for this five-year period.” While the Prime Minister declared victory for his party, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar refused to accept defeat, saying: “I am not giving a concession speech. I am not conceding.” ILP leader Jack Warner, who lost to political neophyte Marvin Gonzales in Lopinot/Bon Air West, said he is going into retirement.
Despite its victory, the Keith Rowley Government prevailed by a cliffhanger. Because of the closure of Petrotrin, some, including Southerners, speculated that San Fernando West could have gone to the UNC but Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi held on and, after a robust fight, claimed a overwhelming victory, receiving over 10,131 votes. He becomes the first PNM MP to win San Fernando consecutively after Errol Mahabir. “I am overjoyed at San Fernando’s love because I want to finish the work I started,” he said last night.
The UNC fought hard in St Joseph in particular, but Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh was rewarded for his work in the constituency and his ministry. He won 8,933 to 8,271. In Tunapuna, homeboy Esmond Forde swept to victory against the man he labelled as a “parachuter” who landed in the constituency, football star David Nakhid.
In Toco/Sangre Grande, the PNM’s Roger Monroe, a former councillor, had a comfortable win, with 10,163 over the UNC’s Nabila Greene who received 7,081. Despite the fact that she pulled out all the stops, UNC’s Jearlean John, who nursed the La Horquetta/Talparo seat for a considerable time, lost to political newbie Foster Cummings.
Meanwhile, the predictions of the pollsters of a tight race in Barataria/San Juan proved not to be so as a young attorney and a senator who has taken the spotlight on many occasions, Saddam Hosein, prevailed. There was particular relief in Tobago and the victory of the two PNM MPs over Watson Duke was particularly sweet for party members and supporters. The UNC had been looking to Duke to help break the PNM’s hold over office, but he failed to deliver.
The UNC held on to Chaguanas East, with young Vandana Mohit beating Clarence Rambharat.
PM on Cabinet appointments and budget
The Prime Minister said he promised the young people that during this period his Government would digitise the country. “And you will see that reflected in the appointments to the Cabinet. I promise you young people that I will take you into training programmes and expand our economy in agriculture. You will see that in the Cabinet and in the budget.
“As I leave you, I go to put a Cabinet together and soon after that we begin to put a budget in place, because once again soon after we are elected to Government, we have to go straight into preparing a budget. This is our first assignment. And I ask you to be patient. I asked you to be supportive. I asked you to leave behind all the aggravation of the election. Leave that baggage behind. Let us look ahead, firm in the gaze that we are looking at a future, a future which all of us have committed to and a future that says to us that we ought to have boundless faith in our destiny, a destiny that is largely in our hands,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that the pandemic was still with us. “I shall be in Whitehall soon after I am sworn in and I will