Deputy political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots, Dr Faith BYisrael said PNM is using racism to try and scare Tobagonians away from their party, ahead of the 2020 general election and 2021 THA election.
BYisrael was speaking in a press release on Thursday after PNM Tobago Council PRO Kwesi Des Vignes claimed he had seen invoices that showed the PDP spent $500,000 for their election campaign launch last Sunday at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, Lowlands. Des Vignes also claimed the PDP is being financed by the United National Congress (UNC).
Mimicking fellow PDP member Farley Augustine's campaign launch speech, BYisrael retorted, “One-one cocoa does really full basket...If the PNM has invoices showing the UNC paying for our launch, let them go ahead and show it to the public. We are confident that the UNC did not pay for our campaign launch. However, we are absolutely sure that funding for our campaign launch came from our membership. Our membership, as demonstrated last Sunday, is large and also includes members of the Tobago diaspora.”
BYisrael said the PNM was reviving a 2013 tactic made infamous by former PNM assemblyman Hilton Sandy.
“It must be clearly noted that this is just the PNM continuing with their racist 'Calcutta ship' campaign from 2013. They are without any evidence yet they are trying to attribute our campaign to the UNC in hopes that they can summon feelings of xenophobia and racism. They are running scared.”
At the PNM Tobago Council’s press conference last Thursday at the Council's Scarborough office, Des Vignes said he received information about the exorbitant cost of the PDP campaign launch.
While he declined to produce the invoices he claimed to had seen, Des Vignes told members of the media gathered that $500,000 was spent by the PDP to host the event, which was held last on November 3.
“The question came to me and I was very concerned. How did the PDP afford a half a million-dollar campaign launch at Magdalena?" Des Vignes queried.
“I have no problems with any political party having any sort of function in any place, but the concern has to be raised. In this time, what some people may say is green guava time or whatever the case might be… where did the PDP get $500,000 – half a million dollars – to launch? And again, this is the information coming to me and it is a serious concern.”
The PRO said the lavish spending comes at a time when the island continues to conserve its resources and Tobagonians continue to work hard to move the island forward.
“You had a good wine and jam session in Magdalena, and everyone deserves to enjoy the finer things in life but in this time, you really have to wonder. And then in my conversation with some colleagues around, they said 'Kwesi, you don’t have to be naive about it.'
"The reality is that Mr Duke has not hid, although he may try to deny it now, his affiliation with his friends in the UNC. I was reliably informed as well, as they said, 'Mr Des Vignes, all you have to do is to go to a particular restaurant on Cipriani Boulevard on a Friday evening and you would see Mr Duke there with the UNC bigwigs, whether is Moonilal or whoever else.' It is something that he would boast about in other circles and deny in others."
Des Vignes added: “In this time, when Tobago businesses are not supportive of the PDP, they were able to have a $500,000 lavish affair when we should be focussing on developing and continuing to develop communities as they claim to want to do. When we should be focussing on continuing to educate and promote the education of young persons, we’re spending half and million on a wine and jam session.”
He noted the UNC has tried and failed numerous times to get into Tobago, adding that they even tried teaming up with the TOP (Tobago Organisation of the People) under the People’s Partnership, but they were rejected yet again.
“The game-plan: get Watson Duke as the wolf in sheep clothing – the trojan horse – to try to convince Tobagonians that they want their own independence and they don’t want to be a part of a general elections for Trinidad and Tobago and that way, they can take control of Central Government again and take control of the treasury again and rape the treasury again."
He said the PNM will defend against that tactic robustly.