Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Battle of the Hashtags in Lead-up to Trinidad & Tobago's General Elections

Political cartoon from Darren Trinity Cheewah's #fullcorbeaux series. Used with permission.

Political cartoon from Darren Trinity Cheewah's #fullcorbeaux series. Used with permission.

As the September 7 general elections in Trinidad and Tobago draw closer, the ruling Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration has many pressing issues to address, including crime, campaign finance reform, accusations from disgraced ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and corruption allegations. Yet, it has been focusing its re-election campaign on one main premise: that the country would be better off not electing the current leader of the opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley, and his People's National Movement (PNM) party.

A week ago the government launched the #NoRowley campaign, about which the Facebook group Poliwatch commented:

An hour ago at the Hyatt the UNC launched its ad campaign for ‪#‎GE2015‬.
Two things to note:
1. Vasant Bharath says they have no idea what the campaign is costing but the UNC is footing the bill. This implies that the political party has a source of income. What is it?
2. The campaign is called www.NoRowley.com. The party's PR team insists it is not personal, but is factual.

The anti-Rowley ads are in heavy rotation, even popping up on You Tube streams:

One ad in particular shows parliamentary footage of former prime minister and leader of the People's National Movement, Patrick Manning, calling Rowley “very, very angry”, “a raging bull”, and “completely out of control”. The satirical Facebook page for “Patos Manning” couldn't resist commenting:

Abt to watch p̶o̶r̶n̶ nature videos on YouTube and a NoRowley video pops up, killing my l̶i̶b̶i̶d̶o̶ desire to see animal antics! V immoral.

Netizens weren't too impressed either. In a public Facebook status update, Ghan Shyam, who was fed up of the tactics of both parties, said:

The ‪#‎norowley‬ campaign, like the ‪#‎getoutkamla‬ campaign launched by the PNM on May 24th 2015 ( but clearly was not followed through with) is juvenile and a bit distasteful. Rodney and Vasant looking like two idiots going around with cut outs of Rowley. Go attack the issues on a different level!

Another Facebook user, Anthony Morgan Beach, publicly posted his displeasure, complete with photos, at “the latest ploy in the UNC's [United National Congress, the main party in the coalition government] ‪#‎NoRowley‬ campaign”:

…to depict (not coincidentally) a single-parent (female), Afro-Trinidadian family suffering the indignity of an empty grocery shopping cart under the tenure of Dr. Rowley. Versus a full cart under the UNC.
Gather from that what you may.

Grocery carts; photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Grocery carts; photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

This was only one example of the campaign moving from a virtual space into a real one — another instance that got people talking on Facebook involved a sign posted at the front of a Roman Catholic school that was posted publicly on The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page:

Signage outside St. Peter's R.C. school in Point Cumana, Trinidad; photo via The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page.

Signage outside St. Peter's R.C. school in Point Cumana, Trinidad; photo via The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page.

In response to several queries asking about the church's position on the sign, the archdiocese posted this response:

catholic media

One Twitter user felt that the campaign direction was achieving the opposite effect from what was intended…

Another was at such a loss, he suggested that Jack Warner's Independent Liberal Party might actually be a safer bet than either the government or opposition:

The PNM has been using the hashtag #getoutkamla in its social media communications, though there does not appear to be a formal advertising campaign supporting it. They have also responded with an invitation to #KnowRowley. Facebook user Rhoda Bharath posted a black and white photograph of a young Rowley participating in a political march, with the comment, “He in this town a while now”:

YOUNG ROWLEY

There is also a public #KnowRowley Facebook page, where supporters have been making their own accusations against the current government, with many maintaining that the #NoRowley campaign is racist. Meanwhile, some supporters of #NoRowley were taking issue not with the man, but with his party's policies, saying:

This is a failure waiting to happen. Zoning of taxes and its use would not help rural communities. So poor areas would remain run down according to this plan. The poor stay poor and the rich stay rich. PNM Policies again.
Failure before launch. […]
#‎NOROWLEY

In a public Facebook post, however, Marlon Rampersad summed up the public's frustration over the level of politicking in the country:

VAT Increases. Spending Cuts.
‪#‎NoRowley
PP/UNC/PARTY HACKS
ah hope allyuh know where allyuh taking this now eh. this is bordering on stink, nasty, dutty, if not there already.
we need to stop appealing to people's ignorance and worst yet, playing on said ignorance. you may not suffer; because you have it made. but ordinary poor people will suffer in the long run.
I wish people could wake up and reject this kind of nasty politics and say to ALL politicians that we deserve more. much more

5 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site