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Gail Alexander

It’s back to Parliament soon with a particularly renewed sense of purpose for all sides since their political survival runs parallel with national interest in 2022.

The game’s stiffer due to new factors likely arising: with jobs in and out of Government, recently obtained positions. Or what may debut ahead.

For the public watching, however, job opportunities may be looming from a quarter—the public sector—where staffing numbers may soon be down with upcoming law to have public sectors converted to quasi safe zones, manned only by people who’ve presented vaccination proof or “appropriate” exemptions.

Submissions to proposals for the plan which were sought from various quarters by the Attorney General have resulted in some amendments to the first draft.

The proposed legislation is expected to cover areas involved in the plan—from the way separation process for the unvaccinated is handled to the medical or other grounds on which people have sought exemption from vaccinations.

Where the unvaccinated are involved, the proposed law will have to define the process for absence without leave, how long such furloughing will apply before job loss occurs and how that meshes with current industrial relations law. Particularly since labour’s already signalled the intention to challenge.

But law will also have to include contingencies for continued public sector staffing if unvaccinated numbers are sizeable.

After Government’s call for divisions to submit numbers of vaccinated, unvaxxed and staff seeking exemptions, indications yesterday were that the vaccinated ranged from a high of approximately 80 to low of 40 per cent. TTPS is at 51-53 per cent vaccinated and Fire Services 37 per cent. Prisons couldn’t say.

However, there are now strong hints that unmanned posts will require filled and that may offer TT job opportunities ahead.

The Health Ministry’s new layout of its daily COVID bulletin doesn’t include unvaccinated numbers, but only vaccinated (now 48 per cent). Indirectly this may reflect the participation to a lesser extent unvaccinated may have as safe zone operations expand. Further, such formats are expected with some Carnival activities—another possible vaccination incentive.

Opposition to the public sector plan is Government’s immediate X factor challenge—but not the only one.

Beyond the February 7 Debe South by-election—which UNC’s expected to win—PNM will be moving to heighten the party’s profile as it prepares for Trinidad’s Local Government polls. After its huge Tobago House of Assembly loss, LG polls will assume almost general election proportions, challenging the PNM to improve on its 2019 LG result of a tie and popular vote loss.

The party lacks the luxury of time, complacency or overconfidence regarding its ground status. The PNM Tobago Council meets on Monday to examine its position where some watching Council inertia since the THA loss, are now starting to agree that new Council leadership is needed.

PNM officials say the national party leadership election due this year is expected the following tradition of maintaining leadership in an election year. In 2023, after the LG polls—a Y factor—it’ll left to be seen whether PNM leader Keith Rowley returns or names include AG Faris Al-Rawi, general secretary Foster Cummings, or MPs Brian Manning or Penny Beckles. Nominees will require national appeal since the PNM’s up against more opposition forces post THA polls—the Z factor.

UNC’s LG planning, an executive official said, includes holding Sangre Grande following the corruption charge against one councillor and flipping San Fernando which the UNC lost by about 100 votes in Cocoyea and Marabella. The UNC is mulling whether social media comments by one south PNMite about a San Fernando Corporation video produced by Al Rawi, might “assist” their Cocoyea fight.

PDP leader Watson Duke’s declaration about contesting Trinidad elections towards a relationship and “unison” reverses his campaign stance that the PDP wanted Tobago out of Trinidad control. With national intent the PDP will now have to be scrutinised deeper beyond Tobago.

The PDP’s entry in LG polls will obviously target PNM “ground” (as New National Vision did in 2019 protests). Just as Congress of the People or similar parties may target middle/“intellectual” classes. Former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, whose attorneys confirmed awaiting word from the Police Service Commission on the former CoP merit list, is yet to state his direction.

Whichever way, it’ll be heavy winds blowing.