Gary: PNM faced annihilation at local polls

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: National Transformation Alliance (NTA) leader Gary Griffith.

NATIONAL Transformation Alliance (NTA) leader Gary Griffith said the Government had postponed the local government elections because it faced certain decimation, in a statement to Newsday on Friday.

On Thursday Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi made a surprise announcement of a one-year extension to the term of sitting councillors, to facilitate local government reforms.

In reactions on Friday, opposition parties did not buy that argument.

Asked for his reaction to the delay, Griffith described it as “unfortunate, but not surprising.”

He said, “If you are facing a battle and know that you will be annihilated, why walk into the valley of death to be massacred?

“Instead they have drawn a hasty retreat to delay the inevitable as a devastating defeat in local government election would have made it virtually ungovernable for them as it would be clear signs of the beginning of the end.”

Griffith said the delay exposed flaws in the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution.

“A government that knows they would be destroyed in the second most significant election in our country, has the power to delay it.

“This cannot be a democratic process.”

Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) leader Phillip Edward Alexander said the postponement was “a clear admission of fear of the inevitable.”

He said local government elections were widely used as a litmus test of a government’s popularity.

“With the collapse of almost every ministry and no jokers left in the pack to shuffle, the Prime Minister is left with no alternative but to play political hide and seek and pray for a miracle.

“The problem for the PNM is the citizens are themselves praying for their own miracle, the removal of this failed and incompetent government from any office of state or corridor of power.”

The Opposition UNC’s Khadijah Ameen, St Augustine MP and shadow minister of local government, said in a statement the Government must not run and hide, but call elections now.

She accused Al-Rawi of fumbling and bumbling at his news conference in explaining the reasons for the delay in local government elections.

“It is no secret that the Government is very unpopular with the electorate at this time.

“The rise in crime, poverty, joblessness and hardship alongside massive blatant corruption and nepotism has created a sense of injustice with citizens waiting to use their democratic power to vote against the PNM.”

She said the PNM did not want to face the electorate now, as it could lose several seats and even regional corporations to UNC.

“Quite simply if they call the elections now, they know they will lose.”

Ameen said the postponement of elections for alleged political expediency signalled “a dark day for democracy” and “a sign of a creeping dictatorship.”

“It is not too late for PNM to call the local government elections when the term comes to an end on December 2.

“It is unacceptable for Prime Minister Rowley to run and hide from the population. I therefore call on the Prime Minister to preserve democracy, do the honourable thing by calling the elections now and face the consequences, good, bad or indifferent.”

Former prime minister the late Patrick Manning delayed local government elections in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The elections were ultimately held in 2010 after Kamla Persad-Bissessar became PM.