Assemblyman Farley Augustine on Tuesday accused the PNM of using THA emergency food cards to bribe Tobagonians for votes.
This isn't the first time Augustine accused the PNM of indiscriminately distributing food cards. But this time his remarks followed shocking comments made by Assistant Secretary in the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment Sheldon Cunningham on Monday on Tobago Channel 5 Rise and Shine show.
Cunningham called out members of the PNM for unfair and dishonest distribution of the one-off THA food cards.
Last week, Augustine first alleged the food cards were given to certain Tobagonians to distribute to friends and family members.
Newsday understands Cunningham was summoned into a meeting with PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine on Tuesday morning.
In the interview with Tobago Channel 5 Cunningham said, "Please, let us do this right. You can't be giving out cards to people without documentation. I urge residents of Providence/Mason Hall/ Moriah, when people are coming around handing cards..."
He said the declaration forms weren't being signed and he had reported the issue to Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis."I hope this is dealt with quickly because we don't want this to be a thorn in the thistle later on...We are doing this to help people and not for mileage."
The area representative said he said he remains "humble, honest and committed to the people of Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah."
Asked if there was a "plot" against him, Cunningham said, "I will not say that, but who have eyes to see will see...Once there are issues within the party, I deal with them internally. People feel I am too quiet but there is a right and wrong way to do things. I am steady and comfortable in my decisions...the world is a circle."
Responding to Cunningham's comments, Augustine said Tobagonians have been complaining about the issue.
"Members of party groups are given food cards to a few party faithful so that they could keep supporting them. This is unfortunate because it is happening at a time where people are in need.
"Those in need of assistance aren't getting the help," Augustine said, adding that over 150 forms from his electoral district have been submitted.
"We cannot sit down and afford a situation where people who are undeserving of cards are getting or people who should not have cards in the first place, have cards to distribute. It's not a PNM card, it's a THA card and should not be used for political campaigning."
Augustine condemned the THA for the long delay in accessing grants owing to suspected fraudulent activities. "The system is supposed to detect when people are trying to commit fraud and when you detect it, remove it."
Recently, a social media user accused area representative for Plymouth/Golden Lane Marisha Osmond of favouritism in the distribution of cards to residents in the area. Responding to the allegation on May 1, Osmond told Newsday, the issuing of cards was directly handled by the division of finance and the economy. She made it clear, her office was only involved in providing the forms and delivering the cards – when processed and approved by the division of finance and the economy – to those who were unable to collect.
“Usually the interested party will collect the form and drop it in. However, during this period of covid19 I have opted to collect the forms, drop them in and collect the cards after processing is through. So, the cards are collected at my district office or I allow my driver and field officer to deliver to those that cannot make it to collect,” she told Newsday.