Progressive Democratic Patriot’s (PDP) Tobago West candidate Tashia Grace Burris has denied claims that statements made on an election campaign platform were directed towards her rival, People's National Movement candidate Shamfa Cudjoe.
On Sunday evening, during the PDP’s second drive-in meeting at the Cyd Gray sporting complex carpark in Roxborough, Burris said, “You see that poser’s national movement that they have over there? The only people qualified on that side...all they qualified to do is pose. If this was a posing contest, I lose long time.
"But this is not a posing contest. This is not a contest to see who looks the prettiest in pictures because my beauty, my pretty, that is what the Lord gave me. I did not buy my complexion in a bottle.
"So for the sheep in red clothing on the other side, who want to question my credentials, I say to you, move nah, let me pass, because none of you can stand one minute in my shoes.”
Several listeners at the meeting, which was broadcast on Facebook, have since called on Burris to apologise for the comment, but Burris is adamant that her comments were not directed at Cudjoe.
“I stand on a platform and I tell people about my life and my experiences. When I said what I said, I was speaking about myself. I wasn’t speaking about anybody else, I wasn’t speaking about anybody’s personal situation. I was talking about myself, because there was always this temptation to try to conform to what society said was acceptable and good-looking.”
The candidate, who is dark in complexion and has dreadlocks, said she had a fear of not being accepted when she decided to enter the political arena, but had to put aside the fear as she believes her presence in politics was about more than how she looked.
“I thought that I had a platform to be able to make change. That is all I’ve ever wanted to do, make change. I think that we’ve so gotten used to people crafting and creating an image to get into politics, and people who are voting for politicians have no clue who the actual person is, what they think, what are their thoughts on certain things.
“It doesn’t matter how I look, what I look like, what I sound like. What is important is, are (whether) my intentions are good. I have been showing myself to the people to show them my intentions.
"I use a platform on the radio every morning to talk about issues, to talk about the things affecting Tobago people on a daily basis. I’ve invited comments from persons to call in and give their contributions because I believe together we can craft the solutions that we need to craft to fix this place,.
"But apparently my short political career is being summed up in one 15-second clip where I am being candid about the struggles that I had with my own self-identity.”
She said the situation has left her asking herself if people truly want to have real conversations about what is happening.
“I have had to craft a public image coming into politics because I am a very, very, very, extremely private person. I live a very quiet life. All of a sudden my character is being questioned and I have spent weeks listening to my character being questioned for the choice that I have made.
"I’ve spent weeks getting public and private attacks from persons who I thought should know better and know me better.”
She appealed: “Let us get together, put aside the differences, put aside the politics, put aside who chose what side when they did, put aside personal feelings and get the job done. If it is that people cannot put aside their party affiliation or personal biases and feelings against one another or towards each other and not be able to get the job done, then I am wasting time in what I am doing.”