Kamla stands by Ashworth Jack
Friday, January 25 2013
TOBAGO Organisation of the People (TOP) political leader Ashworth Jack yesterday said he is yet to make a final decision on his future in politics in the wake of Monday’s 12-0 defeat of the TOP to the PNM.
“I had some discussions yesterday with one arm of the party and I would have another set of discussions Saturday and another set will take place on Monday and Tuesday and I will then come up with my final decision,” he told Newsday moments after holding a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at Rovanel’s Resort, Bon Accord, Tobago, yesterday morning.
On Monday night, Jack had told reporters he would consult his party and come to a decision within 48 hours.
Also at yesterday’s meeting were: Minister of Justice Christlyn Moore (TOP) and the two TOP MPs Vernella Alleyne-Toppin (Tobago East), and Dr Delmon Baker (Tobago West). TOP candidates who contested the election were also present at the meeting, held in a conference room on the compound, located at Store Bay Local Road.
Moore, Toppin and Baker had all earlier attended yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony of Chief Secretary Orville London. Jack, who was dressed casually in a white shirt and khaki trousers, did not attend the swearing-in.
Though his future is not yet clear, Jack said the meeting was really to discuss strategies for the TOP going forward. The meeting lasted for about one and a half hours.
When she emerged from the conference room in the company of Jack, Newsday asked Persad-Bissessar if Jack would be given a Government post – senator or a board position. Persad-Bissessar said, “Those are matters and the TOP will have its discussions on those matters and it’s early days yet. That was not even part of the discussion. People were discussing ways they were fearful that their supporters will be victimised. There is that fear on their part and strategies for the way forward was the discussion we were having.” On the place of the TOP within the coalition, and in particular the TOP MPs, Persad-Bissessar said, “They are very important members of the Government and as a part of the Partnership I don’t see that changing.”
Minutes before the meeting with the TOP, Persad-Bissessar fielded questions on her views on the outcome of the THA campaign after the swearing ceremony of London at the Assembly Legislature Building, Jerningham Street, Scarborough, Tobago.
“I don’t know if Mr Ashworth Jack has asked for a job or requires a job,” she said at one point. On the issue of whether race played a role in the 12-0 defeat, Persad-Bissessar said a pivotal issue may have been fear. At the same time, she could not say what was the main factor.
“The campaign from the other party was really based on fear: defend Tobago,” she said. “I cannot say what was the main factor. It is something that will have to be looked at and analysed.”
She continued, “It is clear, however, regardless of what factor led to the decision, the people of Tobago overwhelmingly chose Mr Orville London and his team and it is a decision of the people of Tobago that must be respected regardless of the reasons why. I believe they chose that team because they felt that that team was best able to run the THA and to develop Tobago. And therefore, we must not attempt to belittle in any way the democratic decision and right of people in Tobago.”
On whether her presence in the TOP campaign was a factor that proved to cripple the TOP’s chances, she said, “The thing is in a sense you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I was invited to come here by my partner, Ashworth and his team, and should I not have come and the result was the same it would be damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I do not share that view.
Perhaps the issues that we faced on the ground and in the campaign were greater issues than the presence of one person. I can’t say that I would have made such a tremendous difference in that regard. I repeat, I came here as an invited person to work with our TOP partner and I could not refuse so to do.”
Asked if the election result surprised her, she said, “When you get to be my age and you have been in politics long, nothing surprises you anymore.” Persad-Bissessar said she did not regard the Tobago vote as a vote on the performance of members of the PP Government.