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Jack: I’ll fight to the last for Tobago freedom
Ashworth Jack, leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), began his political address to villagers in Glamorgan, Tobago East, on Saturday night with the opening verses of Psalm 121 from the Bible. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? “My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.”
Glamorgan, decribed by residents as “country,” reportedly has a strong Christian presence. On the dark junction at Sheep Pen Trace and George Street, under Miss Voris Shop, owned by a Seventh-Day Adventist, Jack, in the trembling tones of a pastor delivering a sermon, addressed a lively group of some 400 TOP supporters dressed in bright yellow party jerseys.
Waving TOP flags and glow sticks, hooting horns and blowing whistles, they responded to Jack like a congregation in a church. Jack said it was three-and-a-half months ago he was inspired to use the psalm. “But I didn’t know what direction God was leading. “The last three or so weeks, I recognised God never makes a mistake. “I have had to endure, with a smile, maybe what one other political leader, Mr Robinson, has had to endure.
“And I’m saying to you brothers and sisters, it has made me stronger, it has made me better.” After the loud hooting and whistling subsided, Jack told of the source of his ordeal—his critics. Listing the criticisms against him, he recalled the incident at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election debate last Thursday night, in which he was accused by Platform of Truth leader Hochoy Charles of walking with prepared notes.
“After the licking of their life, they say I thief the debate,” Jack said. “Everyone was told you can take your notes, that’s why they gave you a notepad and a pen. “You know the joke about that. Everybody in T&T knows I don’t need notes to speak no time.” Noting that he spoke in front of thousands of people at political meetings, he asked: “Why do I have to look at a notepad for two has-beens?
“When they asked me to debate, I said bring it on. I fear God. I know no other fear.” A supporter shouted: “Glory.” Moving on to the issue of internal self-government for the island, Jack said he would fight with his last breath to bring freedom to Tobago. He said the PNM, now saying it will not support the Government’s internal self-government bill, never wanted that for Tobago. He said in 1977, a motion for internal self-government was watered down in the THA to the County Council Act.
“In 1996, another motion was voted against by Orville London (THA Chief Secretary and his political rival).” Jack dismissed various explanations by London for the rejection of the motion saying it was a calculated thing. He attacked THA assemblyman Hilton Sandy for his statement that there is a ship anchored in Calcutta waiting to sail to Tobago.
The statement has been deemed racist and allegedly refers to the UNC-dominated People’s Partnership coalition Government of which the TOP is a part. “If we are not careful, the racial boogey will come to Tobago and swallow every one one of us,” Jack warned. “There are people walking around with Bible here saying Indians want to take over Tobago.”
At the end of his speech, he presented the first copy of the TOP’s manifesto, which outlined the party’s plans for Tobago for the next four years. Glamorgan is in Tobago East, held by the TOP’s Vernella Allen-Toppin, Minister in the Ministry of Social Development. Villager Simeon John, 93, holding a TOP flag and glow stick, said Glamorgan is a traditional Opposition seat.
“Everybody in this village know who they are voting for,” he said. John predicted Sandy will lose his seat in Roxborough/Delaford over his alleged racist Calcutta statement. Several TOP music trucks passed by on the Windward Road while the meeting was going on. TOP pins, glow sticks, flags, horns and whistles were distributed to villagers at the start of the meeting, which they waved, and hooted.
Another TOP meeting was held at the same time in the nearby village of Mt St George, which Jack also attended.
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