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Khan: We will not forfeit seat
The People’s National Movement is rallying around Hilton Sandy, its candidate for the electoral district of Belle Garden/Roxborough/Delaford in the January 21 Tobago House of Assembly election. The party maintained this position in spite of continuing calls for his removal in the wake of what has been described as a racist comment by some, made at a political meeting last week.
Yesterday, PNM chairman Franklin Khan said the party had already dealt with the matter adequately, prompting Sandy’s public apology, and his withdrawal from the campaign, as suggested in some quarters, was now not an option. “The PNM is saddened by the statement. But it forms no part of the PNM’s policy and in no way reflects the PNM’s position,” Khan said.
“But Dr Rowley addressed the matter by stating that he spoke to Sandy as early as possible about it, causing his subsequent apology.” Sandy, who is the THA’s Deputy Chief Secretary, told supporters at a public meeting last Friday that they should ensure the PNM retains control of the assembly, as there was a Calcutta ship waiting to come in and take over the island if the Tobago Organisation of the People were to gain hold of the THA.
Rowley and Chief Secretary Orville London both condemned the comment, saying it did not represent the position of the 56-year-old party. Sandy subsequently apologised, saying it was not intended to hurt anyone but was just political picong. He added that he had many friends who were East Indians.
The comment has, however, been viewed as racist by many people, among them TOP leader Ashworth Jack, former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas, himself a Tobagonian, and other sectors. Khan added, “If he were to withdraw it would also be impossible to get a replacement candidate at this stage.”
He noted that Sandy’s withdrawal would effectively mean forfeiting the seat, which “the PNM is not about to do.” Khan was supported by the party’s PRO, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, who said calls for Sandy’s withdrawal as a candidate were frivolous. He said Sandy’s statement was unfortunate but noted he issued an almost immediate unreserved apology.
Al-Rawi said the resignation call “was a disingenuous position being taken by the UNC-led People’s Partnership Government, which includes the TOP.” He said Sandy’s comment was similar to a statement made by Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who said women who were engaged in the Highway Re-route Movement’s protest at the Parvati Girls’ Hindu College on Indian Arrival Day were sitting on the pavement like a bag of aloo.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission yesterday confirmed that any candidate who withdraws from the THA race at this stage cannot be replaced by their party. Nomination Day was December 31. The election rules that form part of the Representation of the People Act prescribe:
7. (1) On the day and at the place fixed for the nomination of candidates, the Returning Officer shall attend between the hours of nine o’clock in the morning and 12 noon and between the hours of one and three o’clock in the afternoon for the purpose of receiving the nomination of any duly qualified candidate. The returning officer, under rule 12 (1), must publicly post the nomination and the candidate’s declaration of his eligibility for election for seven days after Nomination Day.
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