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Senator Deyalsingh is ready for campaign trail
PNM Senator Terrence Deyalsingh looks immaculate in his black suit, crisp white shirt and red tie, as he sits alertly in the reception area of his home in Valsayn North on Thursday morning.
Announced by the PNM last Sunday as its candidate to contest the St Joseph by-election on November 4, the silver-haired Senator is ready for the campaign trail. The by-election, which takes place just 13 days after the October 21 local government election, was triggered by former MP Herbert Volney’s resignation from the United National Congress (UNC) to join the Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Deyalsingh brings both education and political experience to the by-election: appointed as PNM senator on November 2, 2010, he has a BSc in clinical pharmacy, a post-graduate diploma in international marketing, and has been the co-owner (with his wife) of a tertiary college—the Institute for Training and Development—for the past 15 years. He lectures part-time at UWI’s School of Pharmacy in Mt Hope.
He entered politics, he says, to “give back to my society.” And he backs this up by saying that, should he win the by-election, from November 5 he would become a full-time MP, giving up all other employment positions:
“I am pledging my time to the constituents, and to the business community of St Joseph, on a full-time basis. So I intend to actually make a pest of myself in the communities; they will be seeing me often. As they have been seeing me in St Joseph for the past three years; even though I was not their MP, I managed St Joseph under the former administration. I never left, once we were voted out of power. I maintained all my contacts for the past three years in St Joseph.”
Deyalsingh readily admits the biggest challenge in the St Joseph campaign is the diversity of voting patterns and ethnic backgrounds.
He is very aware of the diverse demography he faces: people of all ethnicities and religions, in a range of occupations, “from agriculture in Bamboo to manufacturing in Carib Brewery, right down to workers in the corner parlour, variety store and cowheel soup store.” He says he’s learned from his experience in the 2010 general election campaign in St Joseph, as well as the 2010 local government elections, that it is crucial to “connect with people on their level.”
He is confident he can do this: “I am a person who can break communion bread with anyone,” he says. “I will eat roti with anybody; and I will eat bake and shark with anybody. I see myself as transcending ethnicity, race and religion.”
Three of Deyalsingh’s concerns, should he become St Joseph MP, include the construction of the St Joseph Police Station, the issue of crime, and forging closer bonds with the business communities. “I saw the plans for the police station in early 2010. Three years later, we have no St Joseph Police Station. What has the MP done about that? Nothing.”
On crime, he says: “We have to make the constituency a place where parents no longer feel the need to ship their children out, like cargo, to foreign lands, letting those lands benefit from our children’s education. We educate them here, but they contribute abroad. I would like to address crime from that perspective: so that people feel safe to have their children back living with them; and that is constituency-wide, from Aranguez to St Joseph to Champs Fleurs.”
On business, he hopes to “work with the San Juan business community, and all the business associations on the Eastern Main Road, from the Croisee, right up to St Joseph.” His aim is to spread the wealth of the society, something he feels does not happen very much under the current Government. He comments: “Under this Government, that has spent $275 billion in three years, (businesses) see no trickle-down effect. All the wealth seems to be concentrated in the hands of four or five people.”
He notes that among other issues he sees in the constituency are service and security issues related to housing developments; general neglect in the past three years; and flooding on the Easten Main Road and in farming areas of Aranguez: “In the plains of Aranguez there are serious flooding issues, especially with the agricultural lands. So we have to look at the dredging of the San Juan River, and the clearing of the waterways. These have not been effectively cleared in the last three years.”
Deyalsingh is quite clear about past representation in the St Joseph area: he believes it was quite bad. He says: “Volney’s utterances and behaviour traumatised his constituents. That is the first thing we have to solve: we have to pour some soothing, healing oils on those waters, and let St Joseph be proud again.”
He says his campaign will run parallel with the PNM local government campaign. He has started cottage meetings in the area. He believes the fact that two MPs have resigned in such a short space of time, prompting two by-elections in less than six months, reflects an “instability and inherent weakness” in Cabinet and Government. “This is not good for development of the country. We need to return to an era of stability, predictability and decency in politics in this country,” states Deyalsingh.
He views the outcome of the St Joseph by-election as an indicator of things to come in the 2015 General Election:
“St Joseph can be used as a barometer. It will test the level of discontent with the UNC. It will test the level of disconnect between what the COP preach as new politics, and their aquiescence in the corruption of the UNC just to stay in power and get ministerial office.
And it will also test the new vision and leader of the PNM. It will test the changes we have made to our constitution, and how relevant they are. So, for example, my nomination via screening is a test of the fact that the PNM political leader no longer has a veto in screening.”
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