In the face of calls for him to withdraw from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, People's National Movement (PNM) candidate Hilton Sandy yesterday declared he will not and expressed confidence he will be victorious at the polls come January 21.
On Sunday, at a PNM public meeting in Tobago, Sandy, the candidate for the electoral district of Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford, urged the people to vote for the PNM, saying a ship from Calcutta was waiting to sail to Tobago, pending the outcome of the THA election.
Competing party the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), the Equality Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ECTT), the National Coalition for Transformation (NCT), as well as religious leader Sat Maharaj, have called for the withdrawal of Sandy from the election.
Yesterday, Sandy said he would do no such thing.
Told that letters and press releases were issued against what were considered racist remarks, Sandy said, "Let them write to me; I have nothing further to say on the matter."
Asked about the feedback on the ground and whether he faced criticism in Tobago as well for his comments, Sandy responded, "I am going ahead with my plans in the village with my campaign... everybody understands what I am about, what I represent; we will win the election."
Sandy welcomed his detractors to Roxbourough on Sunday, saying they will see for themselves the support from the people.
"When we get the results, the results will prove for itself," he said,
On Monday, Sandy issued a statement where he apologised for his comments, but the controversy continues as organisations stated this was not enough.
NJAC, a partner of the People's Partnership Government, stated there were "far-reaching consequences" involved, stemming from Sandy's comments.
"In fact, for NJAC, the entire matter must be viewed against the background of the many references with racist undertones being made during the PNM campaign. Mr Sandy, who it should be noted is deputy Chief Secretary of the THA, must be immediately withdrawn as a PNM candidate in the THA elections," stated NJAC.
The PNM, stated NJAC, must make a very strong and clear statement on the issue of race relations, "particularly as other members of the party have been making statements, though not on the platform, that are detrimental to good race relations in Trinidad and Tobago. In its statement, the PNM must make clear its position on participation of Indians in the THA elections, in a manner that must remove all doubt as to where they stand".
ECTT vice-chairman Barrington "Skippy" Thomas also wrote to Prof John La Guerre, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, lodging a complaint against Sandy.
Thomas stated the complaint was filed in accordance with Section 7 (Offensive Behaviour) of the Equal Opportunities Act, 2000 which state:
1. A person shall not otherwise than in private do any act which:
(a) is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of persons
(b) is done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group
(c) which is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred.
2. for the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it.
(a) cause words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public
(b) is done in a public place
(c) is done in the sight and hearing of persons who are in a public place
3. This section does not apply to acts committed in a place of public worship.
4. In this section, "public place" includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.
Thomas stated Sandy breached the Act as he attempted, on a public political platform, "to perjure and insult Indians, with the intention of inciting a racial/tribal voting practice in the upcoming THA election, a move that the PNM is known of promoting since its inception in 1955".
The ECTT, in its letter, called on the commission to act immediately on the complaint against Sandy, "given the fact that the THA election is due on January 21, 2013, so that representatives who promote ethnic cleavages, especially where they do not exist, are not allowed to hold public office".
Nalini Dial, NCT political leader, stated in a release that Sandy's comments were "inexcusable and discourteous to the citizens of our multiracial society".
The NCT appealed that candidates desist from making racial comments that are divisive.
"We also suggest that anyone involved in this sort of behaviour, be they a present officeholder or a candidate on the campaign trail, be removed by their respective political party forthwith," stated Dial.