It should be an eye-opener for political parties that 40 per cent of respondents in a poll commissioned by Guardian Media Limited have indicated they don’t care who wins the election. What is even more alarming is that the age group that doesn’t care, the 18-44-year-olds, should be the ones taking a keen interest since this is about their future.
This should be a wake-up call for politicians in both major parties, the ruling People’s National Movement and Opposition United National Congress, that a significant sector of society is not interested in their rhetoric and are disenchanted.
With just about two weeks left to the election, the poll shows the race is too close to call. That is no surprise. But it should be of national concern that 58 years after independence, T&T is still polarised by race and that’s how we cast our vote.
The poll found that 61 per cent of voters of Afro-Trinidadians will vote for the PNM, while six per cent support the UNC. Similarly, 55 per cent of Indo-Trinidadians will vote for the UNC, but only seven per cent will vote for the PNM.
That the race factor plays so strong a part in our democracy is an indictment on every politician. The race factor is, after all, fuelled by leaders who misspeak from political platforms.
The threat to our democracy 30 years ago on July 27, 1990 had nothing to do with race. But it was a time when as a nation we faced our darkest hour. That was when armed insurrectionists, also claiming they were fighting for T&T’s cause, stormed the Red House, holding the country’s sitting Prime Minister ANR Robinson and parliamentarians, as well as members of the public in the parliamentary chamber, hostage. PM Robinson was shot and Parliamentarian Leo des Vignes was killed.
A Commission of Inquiry into the events was held but the chief insurrectionist, head of the Jamaat al- Muslimeen Yasin Abu Bakr, never attended.
Thirty years later Abu Bakr has apologised. That apology can never make up for the loss of lives, destruction of property, billions in losses and the mental anguish and trauma the country went through. Nor can it take away from the fact that the nation’s democracy was attacked on that day. Indeed, democratic societies worldwide cherish the fact that they can select their governments by the legal processes that go with candidates campaigning to sway voters and the elections to choose those governmental representatives at the end of those activities.
T&T has been blessed to have had a long history of such activity being carried out as it should be. Citizens have a democratic right to elect who leads us. That should not be taken for granted.
The country’s future is too important to leave it to chance. Don’t depend on friends, relatives, neighbours or co-workers to exercise that right. In a democratic society such as ours, your vote becomes your voice – use it.
There is too much at stake.