Tomorrow night's debate will take Tobago and the nation as a whole into a new era of the evolutionary process of politics.
It is no doubt that the political culture of the twin-island republic is under transformation.
With the advent of coalition politics to maintain the needed parliamentary majority to form a government and now a political debate, things are evolving. All eyes tomorrow night will be on the three men vying for the position of Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly on January 21.
This important and historic election with a lot to win or a lot to lose by the two major parties, is described by many Tobagonians as a very close election.
There were some logistical problems and allegations of lack of communication between the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission and the Chief Secretary, including an apparent misudertanding of the established rules for the debate (needed a minimum of 6 nominated candidates - this did not happen untill December 31) and the New Year, did not make a process which was smooth enough to London's liking; however, he understood the intracacies surronding the planning of events of this such as this and was willing to be cooperative moving forward.
According to Carlos Dillon, a member of the Local Organising Committee the debate will concentrate on the major issues that people of Tobago think are important. Information collected from residents through the use of social media and emails directly to the commission were all factored together to determine the topics of focus. Furthermore, a team of researchers was deployed under the direction of Prof Rhoda Reddock to gage the topics of interests to Tobagonians.
Janet Parks, another member of the Local Organising Committee sees the debate as having a positive impact on the culture and strengthening the democratic process. "The whole culture is changing, no longer a culture where people are jumping up on bandwagons," said Parks, hoping that the debates become a permanent feature in our politics. She hoped on the morning of January 11, undecided voters will be able to make choice. Parks encouraged Tobagonians to "see themselves as catalysts and not to wait for an election to come," to engage the issues.
In a few weeks the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission Facebook page peaked with tremendous activity from relative obscurity to over 704 "likes" as of Monday. One comment on the page from a Trinidadian of Tobagonian ancestry said, "Thank God the issues will be discussed. People want a better life not old talk. Time has come for this change and the Chamber is leading the way. My Mother and Father born Tobagonians and cocoa was their main crop. My grandfather used crates to transport items from Tobago for my father to sell in Trinidad during the war, what happened. Let us hear what are the plans by the THA to develop food sustainability in Tobago. We will listen. Maybe I will go home to my roots."
The Debate will air live on several television and radio stations across in Trinidad and Tobago at 8 p.m.