When Dolores Farrell-Prescod was born in 1937, Tobago was in darkness.
The island received its first electricity supply in 1946. Although now-deceased Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams would only take the reins of governance in 1956, Farrell-Prescod credits him and the People’s National Movement (PNM) with bringing light to Tobago.
“When I born, Tobago was in darkness, it was (Dr) Eric Williams who bring light to Tobago. You going to school barefoot, you have one Bata bullet (pair of sneakers) to go to church and when you come back, it go back below the bed,” Farrell-Prescod told Guardian Media at her Belmont Road home in Tobago.
She was born in Bon Accord. She said her childhood was difficult but happy, as she recalled spending hours in her family’s garden, fetching dried coconuts to make oil for her skin and carrying water with her siblings.
“We used to have latrines outside, every morning we walking down the road to pick peas and coconut shell, now children not doing nothing,” she lamented.
Agriculture was a way of life back then, she said.
“Tobago used to be the food basket of Trinidad, right way the airport is now used to be big, big garden,” Farrell-Prescod said.
In 1992, she got married and moved to Belmont Road.
“I didn’t like here when I first come here, but I did love the man and when you love someone, you follow them,” she said with a smile.
For years, that area fell within the Bacolet/Mt St George district.
Following the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election on January 25, 2021, where the PNM and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) tied six/six, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) created three new districts in Tobago.
Now, Farrell-Prescod’s home falls within the newly-created Mt St George/Goodwood district.
It’s not a change that worries her.
“It’s not a problem to me, once I know what I am about and what I am for, as I listen to all the people who are presenting, I am seeing those who have the interest of Tobago because I am a Tobagonian, born in Bon Accord,” she told us.
Farrell-Prescod believes the People’s National Movement is Tobago’s best option moving forward. She said those who disagree do not know the island’s history.
“I am very proud of where Tobago is now, it 200 per cent improved, Tobago developed, but I don’t know what people in Tobago want, they don’t know what they want. But for me, it is PNM all the way and I not leaving them for nobody because I know what PNM do for me and do for my children to go to high school,” she said.
She believes Tobago needs to renew its focus on agriculture and open factories so the island can produce what it needs.
She also believes citizens need to hold themselves responsible for making their communities and their lives better.
“Long time we never wait for people to come and fix road, the people get together in the village and once you get the material, you fix the road. But now, everything is the Government, the Government. Who is the Government? Is we! When you want to see things happen, you have to do something but you only talking, you ent doing nothing,” she said.
While Farrell-Prescod spoke, one of her grandsons was busy cleaning her yard. She said the yardman she usually employed was not coming around, so her grandson offered to help her out.
She believes the younger generation is not interested in working hard to support themselves.
“They don’t want to do a make a day work…I tell my grandson, the beauty of young people is to work. My mother used to say how you make your bed, so you lay in it,” she said.
She said many youngsters were turning to crime in Tobago for “easy money.”
“The bigger ones in society who have money giving drugs and guns to the young people to sell for them, but the young people don’t understand if you don’t give them their money, is death. It had one fella get killed right up the road not so long ago, cause when them people come, it’s not talk, is gun.”
Farrell-Prescod said she does not see any worthy opponents to the PNM for the control of the Assembly. She slammed PDP leader Watson Duke, saying he was encouraging the island’s youths to behave badly.
“I don’t listen to he at all, is a shame to listen to that gentleman, he talking about money, where are the plans for Tobago? Your plan for Tobago is to give them money? First, he say that THA have too much of workers, now you want to pay THA workers $20 million, that not making sense. He just spoiling the young people because the young people don’t want to work, they want hurry money.”
Some supporters reassess
A short distance away in Goodwood, resident Marcus Phillips presented a different viewpoint.
Phillips said he grew up in a family that supported the PNM but he has reassessed his loyalty over the years.
“I vote PNM three times but I get older and as you grow you learn, that’s what I learn. I grow with my grandmother and them was PNM. When you young, you go by what your parents tell you but when you get older, you learn and I get to understand what they doing,” Phillips said.
And while Farrell-Prescod boasted about the island’s development under the PNM, Phillips said there were many people in his district who were still “backward.”
“People still have latrine in Goodwood where I born and grow, and they (Government) have money, it have things there and the only time you seeing them is around that (election) time,” he said.
While Phillips spoke, music blared from a nearby PDP camp. A group of PDP supporters, in their party T-shirts, were gathered opposite the camp. Several metres away, another group of people were gathered under a white tent decorated in PNM party memorabilia.
Phillips said although the residents supported opposing parties, there was no bad blood between them. He said despite his political preference, he was getting odd jobs from both camps.
“I went and clean up for the PNM camp this morning and just now I going to cut some bamboo for the PDP camp, some fellas might laugh and say I don’t know what I want but at the end of the day, I know when I go behind that counter which part I putting my finger. I fed up of the PNM, I don’t want them there again,” he said.
Fisherman Isiah Lovelace said he was not so focused on party, as he was on policy.
“This fisheries need to fix, agriculture need to fix, housing need to fix in Trinidad and Tobago, you can’t tell me I could buy a car for $200,000 or $300,000 and I can’t buy a house, that ain’t make no sense,” Lovelace said.
At 32, Lovelace is focused on providing for his two children, ages five and three and revealed he would sometimes sell fish out of his car to do so.
A Mt St George resident, Lovelace said he believes politicians have become too comfortable only seeing the electorate during election seasons.
“You don’t have to wait until election time, come and see what people want and let we move forward. I am human being, they are human beings… they come to ask for our votes, they need to be able to do something for us,” he said.
Lovelace said he believes this election will be “tight” but he does not believe it will matter who heads the Assembly from December 7.