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.
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.
— Khamal Ethan Georges (@khamal) July 20, 2015
The anti-Rowley ads are in heavy rotation, even popping up on You Tube streams:
There are #NORowley ads all over You Tube now…every time you click you get an ad!
— Katy Stickland (@crusoesgirl) July 22, 2015
My brother just complained to me that #NORowley ads are popping up all over YouTube on even religious videos and children content.
— Ria Rambally (@Ree_la_la) July 22, 2015
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.
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.
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:
One Twitter user felt that the campaign direction was achieving the opposite effect from what was intended…
— Mřś. Ãbðôôł (@koretta) July 20, 2015
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:
— Vivic Harrinanan (@vharrinanan) July 30, 2013
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”:
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. […]
— CRS HSN (@ChrisHosein1) July 29, 2015
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.
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