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PM’s criticism upsets Tobago business owners

Published: 
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tobago Chamber of Commerce president Demi John Cruickshank says instead of making allegations against the Tobago business community, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must ensure that the person or persons responsible for the collapse of the Tobago economy in the last six months is/are called to account.

Responding to criticisms levelled by the PM when he appeared before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee looking into the procurement and maintenance of the ferries, Cruickshank said,“If the PM has information, we are begging him to give the information to the DPP, the Integrity Commission and the Commissioner of Police to deal with the person or persons responsible for crippling the economy. But what we highlighted was real. It was not made up.”

On Monday, Rowley told the JSC there were people in Tobago who were telling the world how bad Tobago was, “they went as far as photographing empty shelves and putting it on the internet and newspapers that Tobago running out of food and the people starving because the boat wasn’t coming. This despite the fact that these people have their hotels and guest houses that they want people to occupy.”

The PM also expressed concern that the “dissonance from Tobago” had the effect of doing as much damage as what he described as the “corrupt practice” that put the Super Fast Galicia in place.

But Cruickshank said all the chamber did was to “highlight the plight of the citizens of Tobago. We were bringing accurate information to the public.” He said this information “cannot be challenged, because we saw a serious decline in business activity and we would have voiced our concern.”

He said Rowley should realise “now is not the time to point fingers and cast blame. We all doing what we have to do to get Trinidad and Tobago and specifically Tobago in a better economic position.”

Also debunking Rowley’s statements was Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James, who said contrary to what the PM said hoteliers had been in contact with “suppliers, travel agents, and tour operators” to get business in light of the devastation left to several tourist destinations in the region in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Rowley told the JSC there had been devastation in the US Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Anguilla and Puerto Rico, “but not a voice from Tobago saying hotels are available and Tobago is looking for business.”

James said contact had been made since last week, but he said the peak period starts in December and people who booked to those islands will “either cancel or book somewhere else, so we are hoping to get some of that business.”

The association has been asked to return to the JSC hearing when it resumes today.