Bow out, Sandy
By Newsday Staff Thursday, January 10 2013
THERE were mounting calls yesterday for Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Deputy Chief Secretary Hilton Sandy to withdraw from the January 21 THA election.
Sandy is seeking to retain his seat as the People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate for Belle Garden East/ Roxborough/ Delaford.
Furore erupted in recent days after the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) released a recording of Sandy’s remarks at a political meeting in Tobago last month.
Sandy told PNM supporters: “There is a ship at Calcutta waiting to sail to Tobago; they are waiting to get the results of this election. If you bring the wrong results, Calcutta ship is coming down for you. You must stop that ship. We must not allow that ship to sail and if you don’t want that ship to sail, what you have to do? Is vote the PNM!”
Condemnation of Sandy’s remarks came yesterday from religious leaders and senior politicians from TOP and the United National Congress (UNC), two of four political parties which comprise the ruling People’s Partnership. The TOP demanded that Sandy withdraw from the THA election race. The UNC, through its chairman Jack Warner, is accusing the PNM of introducing race into the THA election.
However in the face of mounting pressure on him and the PNM, Sandy said he was not withdrawing his candidacy. He was supported by Opposition and PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Nomination Day for candidates contesting the THA election was December 31, 2012. However checks yesterday by Newsday with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) found there is a window up to January 14 which caters for any candidate withdrawing.
TOP chairman Lionel Coker yesterday called for Sandy to withdraw from the THA election in the wake of his controversial remarks.
“Given the statement made by Mr Sandy, we are calling on him to withdraw his candidacy because based on his statements he is not fit for public office,” Coker told Newsday. “These kinds of statements have no place in public office or society at large.”
He continues, “We are also calling on the Chief Secretary Orville London to withdraw his candidacy as well because of his handling of this matter. We are not sure if Mr London dealt with the matter fittingly and whether his eventual reaction was simply a reaction to the public outcry.”
Elections and Boundaries officials yesterday stated that the deadline for the withdrawal of a candidate is January 14.
Warner, who is National Security Minister, declared in a statement :“It is not a ship from Calcutta they (Tobagonians) fear, it is another term of the PNM that they just don’t want to see ever again.”
“There is no space nor time for such divisive and racist remarks in a diverse, harmonious society such as ours. Mr Hilton’s outburst reflects an unfortunate position of his party that has been uttered in one way or the other in various coded ways.”
Claiming that Rowley and London applauded Sandy when he made these remarks, Warner charged: “ The mask has dropped and we can see them for who they truly are.”
“Mr Sandy, London and Rowley are clearly out of step with the people they hope to represent.
Recognising that the PNM could not defend its dismal record in Tobago after twelve consecutive years and $22 billion, they resort to peddling the fear of race,” Warner said.
He claimed this “has backfired as everyone now knows the heart of the PNM.
“Tobagonians know better. They have endured 12 years of Orville London’s PNM with nothing to show for it,” Warner said. Yesterday, in paid newspaper advertisements entitled “The PNM shows its true colours,” the TOP reflected comments which it attributed to Sandy.
Sandy: I won’t drop out
Sandy yesterday said he was not bothered by Coker’s call for him to withdraw as a candidate. Responding to Coker, Sandy said the reasons for withdrawal and or disqualification of an election candidate were outlined in law under the Representation of the People’s Act and the THA Act No 40 of 1996.
“The TOP chairman is not the EBC (Election and Boundaries Commission),” Sandy asserted. “I have not committed a criminal charge. So what do I have to withdraw for? I would not be bothered by Coker’s call.”
Sandy said he had issued an apology to anyone who felt offended by his reference to a boat and a country.
“It was not my intention to offend anyone,” he asserted. Sandy noted he had completed his nomination with the EBC and was currently engaged in the electoral district.
“I have completed my nomination with the EBC, my papers were checked and in order, and I am about my work canvassing in the district. And I could tell you, the people love me,” said Sandy.
Rowley also rejected Coker’s call for Sandy to withdraw.
“How do you do that after Nomination Day?” Rowley remarked. He reiterated that Sandy was spoken to after he made those remarks which have been “repudiated as unacceptable.” Rowley said the TOP is trying to use them as a diversion and “just waste people’s time.”
He said while Sandy’s remarks did not help the PNM, at the same time “that is not the election.” “We will continue to focus on the issues,” Rowley declared.
The PNM political leader is in Tobago as political activities on the island intensify as January 21 draws near. Sandy has been included in the PNM’s speaking lineup when the party presents its slate of THA candidates at a mass public meeting at the Cyd Gray Stadium in Roxborough on January 13 (Sunday) which begins at 3 pm.
London, Rowley and PNM Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah candidate Sheldon Cunningham are listed as the other speakers at that meeting.
Also in Tobago yesterday were senior government ministers Warner, Dr Roodal Moonilal (Housing), Dr Suruj Rambachan (Local Government), Ganga Singh (Environment), Vasant Bharath (Trade) and Anil Roberts (Sports). Roberts attended a TOP public meeting in Canaan on Tuesday night.
Newsday understands that Warner, Moonilal, Rambachan, Bharath and Singh held a private meeting at the Coco Reef Resort in Crown Point yesterday. Moonilal and Rambachan are UNC deputy leaders.
Outside of the political arena, Sandy’s remarks were condemned by two of the country’s religious leaders.
Head of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain, Archbishop Joseph Harris said, “I am not a politician and don’t intend to get involved in partisan politics but I think that it is a very sad day when politicians have to resort to racial innuendos in order to gain points or votes.
I really think that what Mr Sandy said is unacceptable even if it was a mistake and I would urge all our politicians not to go down that road, that road can only lead to division and trouble in our land.”
‘What if it was ‘Congo’ talk?
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha General Secretary Sat Maharaj called upon Rowley to make an unequivocal and definitive condemnation of Sandy. In a press release, Maharaj said, “The statement of PNM hopeful Sandy was divisive, racist and incendiary and has been repudiated by all right thinking citizens exposed to it.”
“The Maha Sabha is deeply saddened but not surprised by the lukewarn response of Dr Rowley who merely distanced himself from the statement and indicated that Mr Sandy mis-spoke,” Maharaj said.
He continued: “It is indeed ironic that Dr Rowley arrived at these conclusions, lukewarm as they are but while he was on the stage while Mr Sandy was speaking, Dr Rowley and outgoing THA ‘boss man, Orville London clapped and cheered and did not intervene immediately.”
“The Maha Sahba finds the position of the Leader of the Opposition confusing given that Rowley has been going to extreme lengths to deviate from his past character to try and embrace the Indian Community as part of a re-engineering of the PNM. Dr Rowley was on the streets of Debe eating doubles, at Mastana Bahar and Divali Nagar celebrating Indians, while in Roxborough with his silence he was censoring Indians,” Maharaj said.
“The Maha Sabha asks Dr Rowley, had a candidate of the UNC stated on any election platform that if a PNM should win the election that a boat from the Congo would arrive in Trinidad, what would be the PNM’s and the nation’s reaction. Dr Rowley must clearly articulate the PNM’s policy on discrimination and ask Mr Sandy to step down from the race as tangible proof that the PNM has delinked his party’s philosophy from discrimination against Indians,” he added.
Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) Secretary Joan Irish said she could not comment on Sandy’s statements because she was not even aware that such a statement existed.
Head of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Yacoub Ali said: “The religion of Islam does not discriminate on race or colour and we hope that the harmony with which we have existed for decades will continue to be such that there will be peace and tranquillity in both Trinidad and Tobago.”
IRO president Harrypersad Maharaj is in India and could not be reached for comment.