This morning at Macueripe a group of above middle-aged swimmers were discussing last night's THA Debate and assessing the speakers. One man said he found Hochoy the best speaker, but overall the debate was boring and he switched to the cricket. His wife announced that she found Orville London...she couldn't remember his name at first....spoke English so well. Because I was in mid-stroke and not close enough to organically enter the conversation I didn't get the opportunity to ask the question, "Speak English so well as opposed to what language?" This lady is an example of the general attitude Trinidadians have towards Tobagonians...condescending, arrogant, rude...as if Tobagonians are stupid, uncivilised barbaric people with little to no education or indeed common sense.
It is this condescension and arrogance and general rudeness to Tobagonians I see in the TOP/UNC Campaign. Indeed the entire UNC?TOP media campaign seems to be run for the benefit of Trinidadians and not Tobagonians.
Take a glance at their Facebook Page and realise that more Trinidadians than Tobagonians engage in the conversations.
Listen to their radio ads and realise that many of the ads are playing on Trinidad radio stations whose signal never reach Tobago. WACK radio? 93.1/93.5? WACK Radio is based in San Fernando. Hott 93's audience listens to pop/rock, which is a decidedly Indo-dominant audience and listenership. The Calcutta Ship ads features the voice of Hansley Ajodha pretending to represent the interests of Tobagonians....and the list goes on.
But it was last night's debate that struck as particularly insulting and dismissive of Tobagonians....and I really wondered what the people at the Chamber of Commerce and the UWI were thinking when they organised the debate and drafted the questions.
The Debate had a closed off and select audience. All Tobagonians couldnt attend. Remember this is THA elections...it affects Tobagonians more than it could ever affect Trinidadians. The moderator was a Trinidadian of Indian origin. The panellists presenting the questions both sounded distinctly Trinidadian. The venue was the government owned Magdalena Hotel. The production team was Lisa Wickham, a Trinidadian consultant. The research team that came up with the questions were all from the UWI campus and the names I saw listed featured mostly Trinidadian researchers from the University's research sphere.
In short, everything about last night's debate was geared towards a Trinidadian sensibility. But we respect Tobago and want them to have autonomy right? Kamla and TOP aint fooling me with that rhetoric.
The message sent was that this debate was a production by Trinidadian for Trinidadians about a Tobagonian issue. The only Tobagonians voices heard on set were that of the debaters. A very curious thing. The debate claimed to be about economic progress yet managed to bring up the topic of race...a decidedly Trini pre-occupation. But the debate steered clear of corruption, nepotism and cultural difference. The debate also steered clear of addressing issues that are specific and unique to Tobago because the person who researched the questions focused posing questions that are relevant to Trinidadians. As a quick example....there were questions about Transport between the two islands.....not a question was raised about transportation problems on the island. How many Trinis stay beyond Store Bay/Bon Accord/Canaan? Very few. So the concept of moving around Tobago via public transport escapes them. And let's not discuss the issue of unemployment and the types of employment available. Ashworth Jack went on and on about Tourism and Agriculture because clearly the entire educated population of Tobago wants to become farmers, waiters and hotel managers. Not only are job opportunities limited, the industries are limited as well. Which means thousands of Tobagonians have to leave their homes to excel!
I sat through the debate waiting to see it change course and begin to address core issues and then it struck me. The Debates Commission didnt set up this debate for Tobagonians but for themselves. So now it can be said that we have held an election debate and everyone can pat themselves on the back for putting on a good show...but to me the Debate made no difference to the political landscape.
If you ask me who won last night's pappyshow of a debate, I'd tell you the production team.....because them eating a big food and the issues remain untouched!
Vote With Sense....Don't Vote Full Dotish!