The lead-up to Trinidad and Tobago's 2015 general elections is proving to be one of the most curious displays of political wrangling yet. Thus far, Jack Warner, the disgraced former vice president of FIFA who was once the current administration's blue-eyed boy, has been releasing all sorts of compromising information about the country's prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and her political cohorts.
With the election date set for September 7, Trinbagonians have been preparing themselves for what may well turn out to be the dirtiest election season ever. While the race seems set between the twin island republic's two main political parties — the prime minister's United National Congress (which leads the current coalition government) and the opposition People's National Movement, Warner's political bombs have been throwing a spoke in the wheel.
Public scepticism was understandable therefore, when, two months before elections, a new party emerged, chaired by the former president of the senate, Timothy Hamel-Smith, and calling itself by the unfortunate name of The Third Force Movement. Among its members are the National Alliance for Reconstruction, a political entity that governed Trinidad and Tobago from 1986-1991 but has since been unable to sustain any level of relevance, and a group calling itself the Alliance of Independents, mostly comprising former members of the Congress of the People (another party in the People's Partnership government) and the United National Congress.
The group got off to an unintentionally comical start. Many netizens used the Trinbagonian penchant for pronouncing “th” as “t” to rechristen the group “The Turd Force”, complete with jokes about toilets and strained bowel movements. Public critique of the logo did not fare much better; Facebook user Rhoda Bharath shared this photo on her timeline:
A meggie is basically a derisive finger gesture intended to make the recipient feel belittled; the rising sun is the logo of the United National Congress.
Others couldn't help but notice a Star Trek parallel in the logo:
Poor design, coupled with a big technical blunder that involved Google searches for the new party's website redirecting users to the United National Congress webpage, added to the… ahem…shit storm surrounding The Third Force Movement. In a public post on Facebook, Carbon the Element posted a video of the search results, anticipating that the link would soon be inactive:
#3rdFarceTha hubris is strong with this farce… They won't even update their DNS or maybe pay Godaddy/Hostgator the small $$$ for hosting. They in a folder prolly on their ‘home website’.From “don't split the vote” to “what can we do to split the vote?” – one party talking bout manifestos and plans the other party is doing all it can to steal the election because they bought it the last time…
Posted by Carbon TheElement on Saturday, July 4, 2015
Using the hashtag #3rdFarce, he commented:
Tha hubris is strong with this farce… They won't even update their DNS or maybe pay Godaddy/Hostgator the small $$$ for hosting. They in a folder prolly on their ‘home website’.
The party was quick to state, via a media release, that it had been the target of a “cyber attack where pranksters appear to have created a domain name that masquerades as the Third Force Movement without authorization, and have forwarded that domain name to another political party's web site for mischievous purposes”.
Whether this is true or not, the party now finds itself having to deflect allegations of being a puppet of the ruling party, charged with the mission of splitting the vote come September 7, in an election that is already shaping up to be too close to call.
The Third Force Movement's chair Timothy Hamel-Smith has also come under fire from the opposition leader with regard to a controversial addition to Section 34 of the Indictable Offences Act in 2012. The clause was supposedly intended to stop prosecution of those whose trial has been delayed for up to 10 years after the alleged offence was committed. While blood crimes are exempt, the amendment could have made it possible for two businessmen — also ruling party financiers — who are facing fraud and money laundering charges and are wanted for extradition by the United States, to go free. Dr. Keith Rowley reminded the citizenry that when asked to investigate the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the new clause, Hamel-Smith, who was acting president at the time, could find “nothing out of the ordinary”. The Section 34 clause has since been repealed.
In another curious twist, the group is pushing procurement and campaign finance reform on its political platform, but has refused to divulge the identity of its financiers. No wonder then, that for many netizens, this new party just seems like more of the same in Trinidad and Tobago politics.