FORMER Tobago House of Assembly (THA) minority leader and political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Ashworth Jack is calling for a speedy resolution to the inter-island ferry woes, labelling it “a total disaster.”
In voicing his annoyance with the situation, Jack, speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, criticised the government’s handling of the seabridge issue after a media release from the Port Authority (PATT) on Monday evening informed of a decision to pull the lone passenger ferry, the TT Express, from service in the interest of public safety.
“I don’t understand how we’ve come to where we are. That is my concern. How did we arrive at this place where we have no passenger ferries traversing the seabridge, at a time this close to Easter? This is grinding the Tobago economy to a halt and nobody seems to care,” he said. He also commented on the extra responsibility given to Caribbean Airlines, as it was expected to pick up the slack.
“In the very depth of times, especially around this time of year, Caribbean Airlines could never have enough seats. Caribbean Airlines is always deficient in terms of provision of adequate seating, and now you have another 2,000 passengers that would normally travel on the seabridge and you are saying to them that Caribbean Airlines would accommodate them,” he said.
Jack noted that all of this is happening at a time when Tobago is already suffering from low visitor arrivals, as he called for the problem to be fixed once and for all.
“What is happening with us in Tobago? Businesses closing, businesspeople taking money out of their very own pockets to remain open, and no, it is not about having Government subsidise businesses in Tobago, it is asking the Government to do what they were elected to do and to provide an inter-island service, which is really an essential service. The thing is, this is an old issue, and this is more than enough time to fix it, and so I don’t know if there is a short-term fix,” he said.
He went further, slamming the current Executive Council, saying it was too hushed on matters affecting Tobago and Tobagonians.
“The leadership in Tobago is silent. This begs the question why. The thing is, there are Tobagonians who travel via those fast ferries daily for all sorts of things: business, education and medical reasons. What about those people, let’s just say that they have not already bought tickets for the ferry, so they are left with no choice but to now purchase an airline ticket? There are people working URP and CEPEP and with an already small income: you are now telling them they must pay close to $400 – because it’s not like they are landing in Port of Spain, they are landing in Piarco and then have to travel to Port of Spain,” he said.