If a UNC candidate had stated on an election platform that a boat from the Congo would arrive in Trinidad if the PNM wins the election, what would have been the PNM's and the nation's reaction?
This is the question the Maha Sabha is asking People's National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley, in the wake of statements made on Sunday by Roxborough/Delaford candidate Hilton Sandy that a ship from Calcutta was waiting to sail to Tobago if the Tobago electorate fails to vote for the PNM. Sandy apologised for the remarks on Monday.
The Maha Sabha and United National Congress (UNC) chairman, National Security Minister Jack Warner, in separate statements, slammed Rowley, Chief Secretary Orville London and Sandy
In a media release, the Maha Sabha called on Rowley to make "an unequivocal and definitive condemnation of Sandy" and have him step down as candidate for Roxborough/ Delaford in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
It added: "Dr Rowley must clearly articulate the PNM's policy on discrimination and ask Mr Sandy to step down (as a candidate) as tangible proof that the PNM has dissociated its party...from discrimination against Indians.
Stating Sandy's statement was "divisive, racist and incendiary and has been criticised and repudiated by all right-thinking citizens, the Maha Sabha said neither Rowley nor London, who was present when Sandy made the offensive remarks, failed to intervene.
"The Maha Sabha finds the position of the Leader of the Opposition confusing, given that Rowley has been going to extreme lengths to deviate from his past character and try to embrace the Indian community as part of a re-engineering of the PNM. Dr Rowley was on the streets of Debe eating doubles, (he was) at Mastana Bahar and (also) at Divali Nagar celebrating Indians while in Roxborough, by his silence, he was censoring Indians," it said.
Warner, in a statement, said Hilton's outburst reflected an unfortunate position of his party that has been uttered in one way or the other in various coded ways. "This time, however, it found open expression on a public platform in the presence of the political leader and Chief Secretary. The mask has dropped, and we can see them for who they truly are," he said.
He said it was a sad day in the politics of the country that those who aspire to be leaders of this multicultural, multiethnic society could see the world around them through such jaundiced and prejudiced eyes.
"Trinidad and Tobago is a different kind of society today, and we share openly and joyfully in each other's art, music, food and way of life. Mr Sandy, London and Rowley are clearly out of step with the people they hope to represent," he said.
Warner said the PNM, recognising it could not defend its dismal record in Tobago after 12 consecutive years and $22 billion dollars, had resorted to peddling the fear of race. "But it has backfired as everyone knows the heart of the PNM," he said.
He added that Tobagonians knew better, having endured 12 years of London's PNM with nothing to show for it. "It is not a ship from Calcutta they fear; it is another term of the PNM that they just don't want to see ever again," Warner concluded.