Former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Hochoy Charles said Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack should have been disqualified from Wednesday night's debate at the Magdalena Grand Hotel in Lowlands.
Charles said members of the Debates Commission—organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce—told the leaders not to bring notes into the debate, although notes could be written during the debate.
"Mr Jack actually started off with his notes, and they were all there... a pile of paper and I just chose the time to draw it to their attention because he was not removing them, using them all the time," Charles, leader of the Platform For Truth (PFT), told the media after the debate, an innovative event in the build-up to the THA election on January 21.
Jack, in responding to the allegations, said he was merely taking notes during the debate. "What I did is that I write the headlines. I went along, I took notes of it, and that is how you debate. And that's why there was a pen on the table to write," he said.
PNM Tobago Council leader and THA Chief Secretary Orville London said despite the incident the Debates Commission should be commended for holding the event.
London said he was happy to participate in the historic event and looked at it as a future benchmark for elections in Trinidad and Tobago. He said he was glad Tobago was a part of setting the stage and also congratulated his colleagues for an excellent debate. "Of course, there was the very unfortunate incident of the notes, but I mean this is something we can discuss at another time. Except for that I think it was an excellent initiative and I think that Tobago and the people of Tobago would have benefited from it."
London said some of his views coincided with what Charles said and it was mere coincidence.
CEO of the Chamber Catherine Kumar said debaters were told not to walk with notes to the debate. However, the matter will be used to improve any future debate.
"Well I think, yes, we have to make sure the rules are all in writing and if there is any violation of the rules that there would be penalties," Kumar said. See Pages 7 & 17.