THE People's National Movement (PNM) went into full election battle gear yesterday, with political leader Dr Keith Rowley speaking of a possible alliance with Tobago heavyweight Hochoy Charles and former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj to run the country.
Rowley was speaking before a large crowd at Market Square in Scarborough where the PNM presented its 12-member slate for the January 21 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
He told the lively crowd: "I hear them saying that the PNM is financing Hochoy Charles to split votes, but let me tell you this, I have been in opposition to Hochoy Charles since 1980...if there is any Tobagonian who deserves the name Tobagonian, is Hochoy Charles. If Kamla could get together with Jack to ruin this country, I can get together with Ramesh Maharaj and Hochoy Charles to run this country."
Rowley was responding to claims by Tobago Organisation of the People leader Ashworth Jack that the PNM was financing Charles, a former THA chief secretary under the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government, to split the TOP votes.
Rowley, who was ushered onto the platform with confetti and flag-waving, also put Tobagonians on notice that the PNM will not be rushed to support any legislation for internal self-government for the island as he criticised the "indecent haste" of the People's Partnership Government to bring a bill to the Parliament this week.
"I would have liked to stay longer with you, but tomorrow morning I have to head back to Trinidad. It is a high point of vulgarity, lack of class, and crassness that washes this country when you see a Government calling the Parliament to session to lay in the Parliament a bill to give Tobago internal self-government in the height of an election.
"As Opposition Leader, I have no idea what the Government is going to lay in the House.," he said.
Rowley further lambasted the Government as he asked the crowd of supporters, "Should we have expected from this Government a little bit of decency and courtesy?"
He chastised the TOP leader and his team for treating with the issue of internal self-government as a joke.
He warned that it is a "serious matter", adding that in any country, any move to amend the Constitution was "serious business".
"In some places wars are fought, wounds never heal."
Rowley chided the Prime Minister and the "heinous Anand Ramlogan and Christlyn Moore, who came from under a stone somewhere" for attempting to pull wool over Tobagonians' eyes on this issue, while they undermine the process of discussion.
"She (Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar) comes here as the giver of gifts, saying she is going to give you this gift of self-government, but self-government is progression, it is a civilised process, not an election gimmick from the TOP.
"I see something in the newspapers, they talking about powers to make laws and even before we have a chance to see what they are talking about, they (the Government) is saying that Rowley and the PNM must vote for it, but under no pushing will we enact any legislation that concerns the business of the people of Tobago," he said.
Rowley warned Tobagonians to beware of the UNC brand of politics, saying that when the Partnership Government came into office, they fired thousands of persons with no regard for the Public Service Act.
He posed several question to PNM supporters, about whether they were consulted by the Partnership on issues such as a Federation arrangement with the Central Government.
"Have you ever heard more madness?"
The PNM leader said he was extremely proud of the calibre of the 12 candidates chosen to contest the THA election and promised that the PNM will protect Tobago.
"Have no fear people of Tobago, you will get the protection of the PNM. We are what stands between you and disaster," he assured.
Rowley accused Ashworth Jack and National Security Minister Jack Warner of taking a deliberate decision to smear incumbent Chief Secretary Orville London, but said when they failed to do so with the Milshirv deal, they were now spying into his bank account to see how much money he has.
Calling Warner a disgraced FIFA official, Rowley slammed the Prime Minister's silence on allegations of wrongdoing by the TOP leader in the building of his multi-million-dollar mansion at Mt St George, as he reiterated his call to Tobagonians not to be fooled by "food in their mouth and money in their pockets".
"They took a deliberate decision to smear Orville London and rather as PM to stand up against what Ashworth Jack represents, she says that's not important….
Honing in on election day, Rowley admonished supporters, telling them that it is "all well and good to to mash up de place today, but you must remember your purpose for being here. You are supporting a body of candidates being presented here today, and I must remind you that elections are won on election day".
He congratulated the young candidates as he told them: "As political leader I say we have made our contribution , but it is for the young people that we have invested in the last decade, step forward and take responsibility.
Rowley urged voters: "Do not vote for a cell phone, vote to represent your upbringing, your honesty and integrity."
He said he was at the launch simply to support the candidates, support the party in Tobago and added that while the PNM had given Tobago the autonomy to run their affairs, "We stand behind behind you."
Rowley reminded Tobagonians about the lack of integrity of the Partnership Government in the handling of the anti-gang legislation, and the controversial Clause 34.
"...and she has the gall to come to Tobago and say that this indecency must go unnoticed. Tobagonians, has anybody ever so insulted you in Tobago?"
He called on Tobagonians "to vote to send a message to Kamla and Ashworth Jack that we are decent people and we will not accept that. Dip your finger in the ink right down to your elbow and send that message to them".
During the presentations of candidates, several political calpysoes punctuated the launch, which started as a rally from Scarborough Port to Market Square.