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London tight-lipped on $200m lawsuit
Even with a $200 million lawsuit hanging over his head, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London appears to have performed well in an historic election debate on Thursday night. He emerged the winner according to a “people’s poll” by Tobago’s Channel 5 television station done after the debate at the Magdalena Grand Hotel in Lowlands.
The poll, still incomplete, showed London leading in popularity with 55 per cent, Minority Leader and Tobago Organisation of the People leader Ashworth Jack with 35 per cent and Hochoy Charles of the Platform of Truth with ten per cent. Channel 5 is an independent station run by the Benoit family. London, speaking to the media after the debate, said the investors’ legal action was based on a perception that the land application had been rejected.
“An investor has sued based on his perception that his application for a land licence has been rejected. I don’t want to get involved. I have been advised very early in my stint that once something is legal, shut your mouth. “So that’s all I can say about that. It’s in the hands of our lawyers and they will deal with it,” he said. Commenting on the debate, London said it set a benchmark for future elections in T&T and he was glad Tobago was part of the pioneering effort.
Saying the incident in which Charles accused Jack, in the middle of the debate, of having prepared notes was unfortunate, he congratulated his political rivals, calling them “colleagues.” “It was an excellent debate and I think Tobago would have benefited from it,” he concluded. Asked how he felt he performed, London said, “I think I said what was right.”
But did the debate change anyone’s mind? “I don’t think voters would be swayed by a debate. Hope it would allow people to rethink what this administration has delivered. I think as an incumbent, information was put out there to create a particular kind of political climate,” he said.
“I think we were able to clarify some of those issues and I’m hoping it would help people rethink.” Responding to charges from his rivals during the debate that he handed over the Scarborough Hospital project to the central government when the PNM was in power, London said: “I don’t get involved in he say, she and them say.”
Concerning the raging race issue, a major one on the campaign trail to the January 21 THA election, London said one cannot judge the character and ethos of a party like the PNM, with the fine track record it had, on one isolated incident and one individual. THA assemblyman and PNM Roxborough/ Delaford candidate Hilton Sandy raised a hornet’s nest when, at a political meeting, he said there is “a ship from Calcutta waiting to sail to Tobago and we must stop that ship.”
London said one should not even judge Sandy for this isolated incident since he had 45 years in public service and there had been no previous racist claim about him. Jack, questioned by the media after the debate about the notes incident, said he was only jotting headlines. “As soon as I was told about it, I stopped...It’s a little sour,” he said. Asked if it was a violation of the rules, he replied: “Then why do you have a pen and a notepad?”
Jack commended the organisers of the debate, saying it was a first step. He believes it was successful in a bid to start changing T&T’s political culture. Commenting on the notes matter, Charles told the media: “We all agreed there should be no notes. You can walk with a bit of paper to take notes but you must not walk with any notes. “He actually started off with his notes, and I just chose the time to let it be known.
He should have been disqualified.” Charles said there was no picong and bacchanal in Tobago’s political culture and the debate made no difference to that. He blamed the UNC and PNM, both Trinidadbased parties, for bringing bacchanal into Tobago’s politics.
THE LAND LAWSUIT
According to reports, UK investors have started legal proceedings to recover damages and compensation in excess of US$30 million from the THA for an alleged illegal action in a land deal gone sour. The investors are claiming they initiated a deal with the THA to buy the Culloden Estate to build a resort.
They claim they were given the impression everything was going smoothly with the application but the THA did not go through with the deal. The investors sent a letter of intent to recover money lost to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who has already hired a team of lawyers for the matter.
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