OPPOSITION Senator Jearlean John said people in desperation will accept help on offer, but the $50 million giveaway by the PNM-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) three weeks before the THA election cannot make up for how that party has allegedly ruined Tobago's entrepreneurial spark over the years.
She also urged the Government to open the country's beaches, to help revive Tobago's economy.
THA chief secretary Ancil Dennis said on Wednesday this pandemic relief would consist of $15 million to the accommodation sector, $10 million to help digitise the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL) and $20 million for tourism workers displaced from their jobs by the pandemic.
However, John told Newsday she was unimpressed, even as she saluted Tobago businesswoman Diane Hadad for speaking out to liken the grants to bribery.
John said the PNM must stop behaving as if they had just arrived at the THA, when for years they had allegedly eroded Tobago's spirit of resilience and created a dependency syndrome.
"When you are in good house, bad house does call you.
"Tobagonians are the proudest people, the most resilient people. They keep the faith because they have been deprived so much and it has been hard. Many communities are very rural so it has not been easy. On top of that the THA over the past 20 years has systemically eroded and destroyed the private sector.
"Tobagonians are very entrepreneurial. They bright, they smart, they hard-working. They believe in eat little and live long."
She said traditionally Tobagonians supplement their main job by entrepreneurship. "Everybody had a little something going on. Even if you worked for the government, you had your little side. You are making your bene ball, you have your little mauby and 'bellyfull' (pastry) selling. You have a shop. All of these things Tobagonians would have done.
"And they (PNM) have deliberately eroded that. Now 80 per cent of the working population of Tobago is dependent on the government operating in Tobago. So they have destroyed the private sector." She viewed the $50 million giveaway as coming at a 12th hour, when the PNM expects to lose the THA election.
"Tobagonians are a very resolute people and will put up with a lot, but when they are ready to move they are going to move. They are saying right now that they have had enough."
John said Tobagonians were fed up with relying on public sector jobs "and a little THA contract" just to barely get by and for their children to now do the same.
"I think they've said enough is enough. In the pain they are feeling, one will look and say okay they are getting a little respite but what lies beneath that relief? It doesn't come from anything that is good and right-thinking. All of this is to induce a 'win' in the election."
John then hit the Government's handling of Tobago's tourism sector including beach closure during the pandemic, a pillar of the island's economy.
"This Government decided to build a $1 billion airport in Tobago, but what is immediate is the fact they have closed the beaches. Tobago, if allowed,could be the best tourism spot in the world. We have the best beaches, the best sand, the best rainforests. But when you have closed the beaches for months and months on end, entertainers who would go in the hotels and make a living, boat operators, taxi drivers, bene ball and tamarind ball makers, all of them are without a living, without anything! Nobody thought about that? And now that an election is at the doorstep and they find people are chasing them out of their yards, they suddenly decide they are going to bring a big stimulus? To stimulate who?
"I think they are trying to fool the people and it is a big shame and a disgrace."
John hoped Tobagonians would vote out "that cruel group of people."
She said, "It is very painful to look at them treating your people like that, because Tobagonians are more than that and have so much to offer.
"You suffocated them all these months. People who have a little guest house, locked up. You watching the beach but can't go on the beach. The person who selling crab and dumpling, all that is taking care of an entire family, but you (PNM) don't care about that. But you are coming now with a little something to poor people to embarrass them. Should they (PNM) win the election, on December 7 will Tobagonians see them? No." John said the recent issuing of food cards was chaotic and shameful, even as Tobagonians deserved better.
"Go to the people with clean hands and tell them what you have done for the past 20 years and if you have done a good job the Tobagonians as good, right-thinking people will do what is in their conscience. But don't try to fool them at this last hour to further entrap them and their children's future."
Newsday asked about grants to guest houses and hotels. "When you are under pressure you will accept whatever is given to you. This stimulus is not because they love anybody but the fact that they are going to be put out of office and that whoever goes in to that will ask them to account for all they have done for the past 20 years without accounting.
"Tobago was not asking for a handout.Tobago is asking for an opportunity to live, breathe and work. Tobagonians want to work. They have been begging, 'Open the beaches,' because that has a ripple effect across the economy of Tobago. If people don't work, they don't eat."
John said people would likely accept whatever funding was offered to them. "But why now are you coming with this little handout? They did not ask for a handout but for a facilitatory environment, just to open the beaches and allow airlifts in, and market this destination."
Newsday asked about the Government closing the beaches to curb covid19.
She replied, "How can you explain that you have opened the water parks which you have in these enclosed spaces but closed the beaches which have a big expanse with wind and the tide coming in? Which science tells you to close down beaches like that? You are withholding from so many people the opportunity to earn an honest living which is all they want to do."
Asked if it was feasible to open beaches inclusive of social distancing against covid, such as staying in family units, she said, "Tobagonians will understand there are rules you have to observe."
John has been managing director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), chairman of Udecott, CEO of the Pizza Boys Group, and Minister of Transport, Tourism and Tobago Affairs.