Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM), Kwesi Des Vignes is calling on president of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce, Rampersad Sieuraj to apologise for his comments about giving Tobago’s allocation in the national budget to the Penal/Debe regional corporation.
Last Monday, Sieuraj called for some of Tobago’s budgetary allocation to be given to his area to go toward solving the annual flooding which he describes as an annual catastrophe.
Speaking during a press conference at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce’s office in Couva, Sieuraj said: “Give Penal/Debe (regional corporation) two years of Tobago’s budgetary allocation and take two years of Penal/ Debe’s allocation and give it to Tobago.”
Des Vignes slammed Sieuraj for his comments which he described as "race baiting".
“We see someone who is trying to use an opportunity to forward his own agenda, using what I would call race baiting, almost. Mr Sieuraj, we hear you, you know that you are wrong, please use the opportunity to apologise to all Tobagonians. I wish that you would be big enough to come out and apologise to not only Tobagonians but to the national community, especially the Tobago community.”
Des Vignes said he commiserated with the people of Penal/Debe who suffered flooding but said Tobago also has its own issues that need funding to address.
“We endorse the actions of Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and, of course, the Cabinet in issuing $2 million in emergency funding. But, why go down the road of trying to stoke division at this point in time, that you want what Tobago has.
“And it speaks to a kind of philosophy that you’re not going to get away from, that philosophy of envy – looking at what is in your partner’s plate. That is not how we go about business; we all want development, we all want to ensure that our people are safe and secure and to go down the road of trying to create lines of division, using almost race baiting, is beyond unfortunate,” Des Vignes said.
THA Minority Leader and political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Watson Duke also addressed the issue which he described as a "sick joke" and said Sieuraj must clarify his statement.
In a voicenote sent via WhatsApp on Wednesday, Duke said: “I’ll give him a chance to clarify the sick joke that he has made. I want to tell him and those like him that Tobago’s annual financial supply by Trinidad is but a mere expectation of what we require to run Tobago. Tobago is undeveloped and we require more money to develop Tobago.”
Duke described the issues of flooding in the Penal/Debe area as “trivial” before reminding Sieuraj how crucial Tobago’s allocation is to the island and its people.