Economist Dr Vanus James has responded to a taunt by the PNM over his style of dress.
At Black Rock Hard Courts on Sunday, PNM Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender told supporters: “You must stand out among your peers. So when I see (PDP deputy leader) Farley (Augustine), who like to dress up nice, standing next to Vanus who looks like a vagrant, I said, 'Shame on you, Farley.'
"My grandmother always said to me, if you show me your friends, I would tell you who you are.”
Callender also questioned James's work on the island and throughout the country.
“When I examine, as a Tobagonian, what has Dr Vanus James contributed to the people of Tobago, I come up with zilch, zero, nothing,” he said.
At the same venue on Monday, James defended himself and his knowledge. “I never come to the platform for accolades...I do not need to blow my own trumpet in Tobago, but when you watch me talk and you hear me talk, you know that eh no vagrant.
“On the other hand," he said, "when the people of Tobago hear the leaders of the PNM talk and they hear the gutter politics they want to bring to our people; and they hear the racism that they want to practise here in Tobago; and when the people of Tobago look at the record of the PNM on mismanagement, the destruction of the economy of Tobago and the disappearance of our money, they know that on the 25 of January, they must go to the polls and dismiss the PNM from office.”
Contacted for a response, Callender said his comment was deliberately misconstrued.
"They have conveniently twisted my comment maybe to gain a political advantage. They are claiming that I have called Vanus a vagrant, I never did any such thing. As a matter of fact, I recognise and respect Vanus's intelligence. I never questioned his qualifications.
"As a matter of fact, I had compared him to our own Dr Anselm London (deceased), who I said is also a renowned economist but left a high profile job and came back to Tobago to make a contribution to the place of his birth. I said that Anselm London was one of the persons who was pivitol in the transformation of this place called Tobago. I said I am yet to identify any similar contribution from Dr Vanus James.
"The point I made is that there are young people looking and I have always been told by my grandparents, your impression is what counts. I am saying Farley as a young, upcoming man; when he stands he is neatly dressed but when he stands next to Vanus, Vanus looks like a vagrant. I never questioned his ability – that is not my concern. I compliment him but there are young children, there are young people looking at you. All I was encouraging Vanus to do, you have to change the outlook, young people are looking at you. You have to change that outlook, you are an influence on young people and he has to do better."
James, who spoke on a PDP platform prior to the general election last year, said his endorsement of the Watson Duke-led party was based on research.
He said, as “a senior citizen, a senior scholar and your distinguished professor,” he was satisfied that the PDP was building a party for everyone.
“You just have to watch how Farley and Watson live together.
"For 186 years, we have been trying to find this model. We have never found it until now. You have been living with dictatorship mirroring the practices of slavery all your lives. Here is a dawn, an escape from the dark days of dictatorship into the light of freedom and they’re passing their mouth on the man who engineering that – and that tells you you cannot listen to them.”
He said the PDP was giving everyone the opportunity to "get involved, find a home where your views can be heard, your ambitions can be realised, your finances can be sorted out and you don’t have to practise thievery in order to achieve it.”
James said Tobago would end up like Laventille if the PNM remained in power.
“From me a little boy wearing short pants, Laventille people voting PNM. They never vote anybody else. And the more they vote PNM, the more PNM drive their face into the dust.
"That is what they are promising you in reality here. They want to make you into a vote bank to use to fight against UNC and them in Trinidad, to fight racism, to go down there and practise that dirtiness. And every chance they get, they bring it over here to remind you."