MEDIA RELEASE - November 23rd, 2021

On January 8, 2021, the leaders of the five political parties which have nominated candidates to contest the December 6, 2021 Tobago House of Assembly elections ratified and signed the Code of Ethical Political Conduct. Having signed the Code, these Political leaders gave the commitment that their political parties, as well as all Candidates, and supporters would endeavour to ensure that all the provisions of the Code are upheld.

 

Based on reports, in the national print and electronic media, on the first week of campaigning following Nomination Day, concerns have been raised as to possible infringements of the Code by some political parties/candidates. Concerns have been raised in relation to the following:

1. The use of public funds to improperly influence electoral choice:

The announcement of a $50 million disbursement has been denounced as an election gimmick and bribery. In fact, THA Chief Secretary Dennis acknowledged that many will view this disbursement as an election gimmick. While many may view it as an important injection into the Tobago economy, the fact remains that announcing this disbursement within three weeks of an election fuels the claim that public funds are being used improperly. More critically, this claim follows the previously published statements that at least one incumbent Secretary admitted to signing (authorizing) blank application forms for Government Emergency Social Assistance.

The Code of Ethical Political Conduct categorically states:

Parties and Candidates agree to

• Not permit the use and abuse of State resources for political campaigns.

• Not use funds derived from any source, public or private, to improperly influence

electoral choices.

2. Another concern as published in the media relates to the issue of slander and character assassination. In this case candidates representing various parties have been identified as having been targeted. Two clear examples of this are:

a. One candidate said that he was accused of impregnating several women

b. Another candidate claimed that he was accused of initiating a series of social media attacks against a candidate of another party.

From the perspective of the Code, the leaders, candidates and supporters of political parties have agreed to:

• Not make false or defamatory allegations in print or speech in connection with an election in respect of a Party, its Candidates, representatives or members.

• Not seek to assassinate the character of or make defamatory comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community.

• Maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct during the campaign

• Confine their criticism of other Political Parties to policies and programmes, past record and work

In reminding the leaders of political parties that they had committed to these principles, the Council would now like to underscore the point that leaders and candidates are expected to exercise a level of responsibility. The Code specifically requests that political leaders and candidates should ensure that their conduct is above reproach. They must also

• Promote and enforce respect, tolerance, harmony and peace amongst their supporters and the general public during the campaign

• Refrain from practices that promote divisiveness in the Society and commit to the removal of any structures which reinforce divisiveness.

• Not use language or act in a way that may –

- Provoke violence; or

- Intimidate Candidates, members of Parties, representatives or supporters of Parties or Candidates, or voters; or

- Invite, encourage or foster hatred, resentment or any form of violence.

Should the Party leaders, candidates and supporters abide by these principles, the December 6th 2021 election would be one of which Tobagonians, and indeed all citizens of the entire country, can be proud.

 

The Council again invites members of the public to visit its website www.politicalethicstt.org to view the Code in its entirety. While the primary role of the Council is to monitor and evaluate adherence to the Code, in the context of the extensive use of social media, the Council admits to being challenged in effectively monitoring social media. In this context the Council is appealing to the citizenry at large to please bring to our attention any possible violations of the Code. Reports of such possible violations, along with any supporting evidence of the violations should be emailed to the Council at info@politicalethicstt.org

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Council,

 

Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath, Chair