Out of the 12 electoral districts in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, the Lambeau/Signal Hill area has the unique distinction of being the only one to have supported the People’s National Movement (PNM) since electoral politics began in 1980 in Tobago.
In political terms, it’s a safe seat.
In 1980, William McKenzie took it, holding on to it until 2013 when he handed over the task to Jomo Pitt. Pitt resigned in June 2020.
For the January 25, 2021 elections, the PNM’s Tobago Council leader and prospective candidate for the area, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, hopes to continue McKenzie’s legacy.
The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) candidate Wane “Wasp” Clarke wants to stop it.
The area is home to schools – early childhood to secondary – a community centre, playing field, play park, Tobago’s only operational hospital, and the infamous stick man stature.
The statute, a remnant from the Hochoy Charles era, reminds Tobagonians of the $40.9 million taxpayer-funded Ring Bang International concert in late December 1999, that failed to meet financial and other expectations.
As of December 20, with just over a month to go before the elections, eligible voters, some of whom claim to have always supported the PNM, say they are not interested in voting. They say they are without jobs and feel taken for granted.
What voters say
“What you redding up your finger for,” one 32-year-old man, who wore a washed-out, torn PNM t-shirt, told Guardian Media.
Sitting among almost one dozen men on a block in Signal Hill, the man, who gave his name as Blue Jay, said he has always voted for the PNM.
“For years, once they walk around and taking names, I sign up my name, and I get an early morning walk. Many men get jobs down at Works (Infrastructure Department),” he told Guardian Media.
He says since Pitt took office the situation turned.
“Is salt, nothing fuh we. Is like they expect we to vote and ent get nothing, but not this time pardners,” he said, smacking his palms together, repeatedly.
‘Tall man’, another man on a nearby block claimed he too has been looking for employment at the Infrastructure Department for years.
“Is seven years now I signing up down at the Infrastructure Department and they only taking their friends for the wuk. Is who know who.”
As the men smoked and passed around the lone crudely-wrapped cigarette, they all lamented their joblessness.
Only one from the groups – the youngest – never voted. He, too, will not vote in 2021 either.
According to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), 46 per cent of eligible voters in the district voted in the 2017 THA elections.
Fifty-nine per cent of the votes went to the PNM, while the PDP received 21 per cent.
Davidson-Celestine, an old hand at politics but a newcomer to the area, said she is on track to bring home the seat.
After visiting many homes and speaking to the electorate, she told Guardian Media, “From all indications and the responses from the people, they are PNM people.”
The PDP’s Clarke, a virgin politician, is working on changing that.
Clarke, a football coach, who grew up and remained in Lambeau, said he knew what villagers need.
In a promotional video on his candidacy, he said: “Coming from a broken home, I see myself in a lot of the youths out there. I could identify… hence the reason why I decided to get involved at a deeper level.”
Clarke may be able to count on the Tobago Forwards’ (TF) electorate votes as the TF asked its supporters to assist the PDP.
According to the EBC, in the 2017 elections, the TF gained 19 per cent of the votes.
If Davidson-Celestine wins her seat and the PNM wins the election, she is set to become the THA’s first female chief secretary.