top leader: Ashworth Jack

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Ashworth: Trinis, thugs making mischief in Tobago

By Juhel Browne and Elizabeth Williams

Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack claims a group of men from Trinidad have arrived in Tobago and are using strong-arm tactics in an attempt "to intimidate people" in the final days leading up to the Tobago House of Assembly elections scheduled for next Monday.

But the THA's Chief Secretary, Orville London, who is also a People's National Movement (PNM) deputy political leader, told reporters on Wednesday the party's Tobago arm is not involved in any such activity.

Jack made his claim during a TOP political meeting in Speyside on Tuesday night.

Sitting at the table during Jack's speech was Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar—who had earlier delivered an address at a rally for Jack who claimed his party's supporters are now facing a serious political threat.

"And so, if you drive around Tobago you will see every Tobagonian who is PNM walking around tearing down (TOP) posters. And when they find enough of them couldn't tear down posters they bring up Trinidad persons from Laventille, from Diego Martin and they too tearing down posters," Jack said.

He further said: "I have been reliably informed that as of a couple of days ago there are 20 thugs driving around Tobago from a certain religious sect carried around by a guy I know, and they are attempting to intimidate people on every block."

London offered a brief response, saying, "I categorically deny any allegation that the PNM Tobago Council is involved in that activity. I know not of what he speaks."

During another new conference on Monday, however, London said the PNM Tobago Council was not trying to turn political battles into physical confrontations.

"Even if we are going to do what is necessary to ensure that we give ourselves the best chance of winning, there are things we will not do because we are Tobagonians first and PNM after," London said on Monday.

On Wednesday night, Jack said  "a couple of nights ago" his party had to file a police report of an attempt to vandalise its headquarters in Scarborough which was thwarted due to increased security measures.

But Jack also addressed other issues and offered a radical shift in the public health care provided to foreign visitors if his party is victorious at the polls against the backdrop of a struggling tourism sector.

"Therefore, the Tobago House of Assembly, under a TOP administration, will implement that visitors to the country who fall sick will show or present upon admission to the hospital their medical card, so we can charge to their insurance company for the medicine and the treatment they get in Tobago," Jack said.

And in a reference to London and past THA chief secretary Hochoy Charles, who is now a candidate in the present elections, Jack said, "If Tobago treasury was raped in 1996 to 2001 it has been gang raped between 2001 and 2013."

Referring to 2004 and 2005 Auditor General reports in the THA, London told reporters on Wednesday, "If the treasury was raped at anytime somebody was supposed to be facing the court or in jail. And it is in that context that I want to again put on record my concern about the way in which the Auditor General report is being treated."

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