“What have I done to deserve what is coming at me?”
This was the question asked to People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council members by incumbent political leader Kelvin Charles during a Kelvin Charles 2020 and beyond cottage meeting at the Mason Hall Community Centre on Monday.
Charles, who also holds the position of Chief Secretary, Secretary for Education, Innovation and Energy and electoral representative for Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden, is once again vying for the position of political leader of the Tobago Council.
The PNM internal elections will be held on Sunday with Denise Tsoiafatt Angus, Joel Jack and Tracy Davidson-Celestine challenging Charles..
As he addressed supporters, Charles discussed his record since 2001 within the party and took umbrage with critics saying he caused division within the party after elected to the post in 2016.
“Is it that the idea was that I should fail from the start, and the fact that I didn’t fail is upsetting? I’m just asking questions.”
Charles said subsequent to that election in 2016, a number of people who contested that election were incorporated to help the country move forward.
“So, early o’clock, there was a genuine attempt at ensuring that no one in a very real sense was excluded from participating at that level of the organisation.
“My brother (making reference to Kurt Salandy) who is vying for Education Officer did not support me in 2016 but what I liked about him is that after the victory and at my first celebration, he came to that celebration. I said, 'That was maturity' and that was someone who recognised that at the end of the day, we are all PNM people and having taken a particular position at which he was not successful, given the fact that the people spoke, he felt that he had a responsibility to join with us and support,” Charles said commending Salandy.
“Now if Kelvin Charles was not inclusive – because they’re saying that he is not inclusive – would I have had this gentleman on my slate today, and he’s not the only one. There are others on my slate who did not support me in 2016 but are on my slate tonight. I ask you, what speaks more powerfully than the fact that some of those who did not support me in 2016 and now with me in 2019/2020?”
Charles recalled he said as part of his campaign in 2016, that Tobago was too small to be managed on the basis of partisan politics and that he was prepared to give everyone who wishes to serve, the opportunity to serve, however under two conditions; that they must come to the table as professionals and they must not undermine his administration.
“Losers were brought in on the council and in fact I supported the elevation of (leadership candidate) Dr Angus (Tsoiafatt Angus) to (THA) presiding officer, it couldn’t happen if the Chief Secretary didn’t want it. I also supported, in many case I may not have had too much of a choice as it wasn’t my call, but I didn’t object to it… when (leadership candidate) Mrs (Tracy) Davidson-Celestine was offered a position (ambassador to Costa Rica) abroad, I supported.
He said the Executive Council created a Rural Unit to fast track the development of rural communities, particularly those in the north east and in the east, adding that among the people who did not support him in 2016 are three people who have been employed for over two years as part of that unit.
“Gary Melville, Wendell Berkeley and Deon Isaac are all paid employees of the Assembly.
“What I have to do is to make sure, because by now those contracts would have come to an end, I would have to make sure that the contracts are renewed. And this is the gentleman who they accuse of being non-inclusive,” he said.