People’s National Movement leader Dr Keith Rowley was critical yesterday of his PNM colleague, THA Assemblyman Hilton Sandy, over comments he made on the political platform last week.
Referring to a statement attributed to Sandy on the THA campaign trail, in which he reportedly told a crowd East Indians would take over the sister isle if they did not return the PNM to power, Rowley said the comment was
“It was unfortunate that Mr Sandy would have made that kind of reference,” Rowley told reporters at a news conference following yesterday’s sitting of the House of Representatives at Tower D, Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain.
Sandy, the THA candidate for Roxborough/Delaford, during a meeting last Friday told the crowd in part: “Be strong. Do not let anyone distract you, you are focussed, you are on a good ship, because as I told another crew down the road there is a ship at Calcutta waiting to sail to Tobago... Calcutta ship is coming down for you.”
Many people, including the political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People Ashworth Jack, were critical of Sandy’s statement on social media Web sites yesterday, saying he was waging a race war in the campaign to the January 21 THA election.
Yesterday, Rowley seemed in agreement with the sentiment. “It was wrong and I think he should—whatever implications it had—he should apologise for it.”
Rowley insisted Sandy’s comment about Calcutta “forms no part of the PNM’s campaign” but added many people would seek to score political points from the unfortunate incident. He said the PNM’s opponents would want to use Sandy’s statement to support claims the PNM was engaged in a racial campaign.
He added: “We certainly are not. The people of Tobago subscribe to the principle of the national anthem, every creed and race find an equal place.”
Rowley also criticised the Express newspaper for claiming both Chief Secretary Orville London and himself cheered on Sandy, who is also the Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities in the THA, for his remarks when the statement was played at the launch of the party’s campaign in Tobago at the weekend.
“That’s an absolute untruth,” Rowley said.
He said after the incident “Mr Sandy was spoken to about it and I expect he will rectify his misstep or misgivings (as) it forms no part of the PNM’s policy or (election) campaign.”
Meanwhile, Rowley also criticised National Security Minister Jack Warner for his statement in Parliament yesterday on crime statistics for 2012.
He said, based on the official police figures, the murder rate increased last year when compared to 2011. Rowley said in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, the murder rate reduced in each of those years.
He said in 2011 the murder rate was 354, with a three-month state of emergency, and in 2012 the murder rate was 383.