With the St Joseph by-election just a week away on November 4, residents in the constituency are still unsure which party they want to represent their interests in Parliament.
Many constituents seem to favour the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) candidate Terrence Deyalsingh over his challengers Ian Alleyne, of the United National Congress (UNC); Om Lalla, of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP); the Democratic National Assembly’s (DNA’s) Michael Lopez; and independent candidate Errol Fabien.
Several residents interviewed by Sunday Newsday on Thursday declared Deyalsingh, an Opposition senator, the clear frontrunner even though they said they did not know him.
“The youths will be voting for the party (PNM), not the man because they doh really know Deyalsingh. They still know Ian Alleyne and Om Lalla from watching Crime Watch,” one young man said at the Mt D’Or Community Centre, where the LIFESport programme was being carried out.
Other youths at the centre also pledged support for the PNM, largely on the basis of party loyalty as opposed to familiarity.
“At the end of the day, them on blatant nonsense and the youths eyes open to that,” David Bernard said of Alleyne and Lalla.
A youth officer assigned to the LIFESport programme, Bernard, a father of five, has lived in Mt D’Or all his life. “The area is going to give them a Tobago styling,” he said, alluding to the January 21 Tobago House of Assembly election in which the PNM obliterated the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), a member party of the coalition People’s Partnership (PP).
Apart from the ILP and UNC, which he claimed did not stand a chance, Bernard predicted that Fabien and Lopez will also receive a poor showing at the poll.
“Fabien might be a good guy but what can he really do for the people as an independent?” Bernard wondered.
Another young man claimed candidates are avoiding walking along the Mt D’Or Road visiting instead what he regarded as the more upscale areas of St Joseph, such as the housing developments in neighbouring Mendez Drive.
This man contended also that Alleyne, in particular, disrespected residents of Mt D’Or when he reportedly said during one of his walkabouts that one of his priorities was to “clean up St Joseph” and “get rid of all the guns on the hill.”
“Alleyne, from what I hearing, is trying to be Minister of National Security more than anything else. He not real at all,” declared this Mt D’Or resident.
Community activist Hassan Maharaj also took issue with Alleyne’s statements. He recalled that during one of his episodes of Crime Watch, Alleyne had spoken out against the killing of Mt D’Or resident Atiba Duncan last year and had vowed to get justice for the man’s family. Duncan, a Housing Development Corporation watchman and promising footballer, was allegedly shot and killed by police in the area on April 4, 2012.
Police have claimed he was armed and had attempted to shoot at them as they were about to execute a warrant against him. But there have been conflicting reports as to what sparked the killing, with his family saying he was shot in the back and not armed. The investigation into the incident is continuing.
At Mendez Drive, residents spoke guardedly about the upcoming election. Some claimed they had not yet chosen a candidate but felt the election would be a toss up between Deyalsingh and Fabien. As for the DNA, many people did not seem to know that such a party existed, let alone the fact that it was fielding a candidate in the election. “Who is the political leader of that party?” one female resident asked. She said the PNM appeared to be the most stable of all the parties going into the election. One of the woman’s neighbours, a retiree, lamenting the number of elections that have taken place in the country for the year thus far, declined to say which of the parties he would support. “I think people are just fed up of the promises. The only time you see these people (politicians) is during elections because they need the vote,” he said, a sentiment echoed by another female resident. Across at Farm Road and nearby Bangladesh, residents said they were in a quandary.
“I feel Ian Alleyne will be able to get the job done. Look at the kinda things he used to do on Crime Watch,” an elderly “Bangladesh” resident said. However, she was concerned about the apparent tension between Alleyne and his one-time partner, Om Lalla, who is contesting the seat on behalf of the ILP.
“With all this bacchanal taking place between them, I don’t know if they will care about the people or just trying to settle a score among themselves,” she said.
Another woman in the area said she was voting PNM “all the way”.
“There was a huge group that left here to go to Eddie Hart last Saturday. People feel we gone green but we gone red,” she said. “I think is time we give PNM another chance.”
Regardless of which party wins the election, unemployment is perhaps the major issue confronting constituents, David Bernard said.
“Unemployment is a big problem and the youths are willing to work,” he said, praising the LIFESport initiative.
“We not encouraging them to take a gun and rob nobody. We are pushing them to do the right thing.” Hassan Maharaj also spoke out against stigmatisation in the community.
“The way to solve crime is to let the youths be employed,” he argued.
“A man from south can’t come and build something in the community and not have the young people involved. To help solve crime you have to be locally empowered.”