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Opposition Leader: He was immediately upbraided

By Ria Taitt

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said Hilton Sandy was immediately upbraided when he made the comment about the ship from Calcutta that would come to Tobago if his constituents did not vote for the PNM and voted for the Tobago Organisation of the People in the THA election.

He was responding to the position taken by several analysts— Reginald Dumas, Winford James and Derek Ramsamooj—who said he should have intervened immediately when Sandy made his racist statement.

He said Dumas and others had no idea when Sandy was spoken to. "We took action immediately to ask Sandy what the hell he was talking about," he said.

Rowley said if something happens, he reacts in the best possible way available to him. "And I have done so. I have done what I think I should do as leader of the PNM and my position is consistent with everything I have been in this country," he said.

He said he wanted people to take the same position on other persons who made similar statements which can be interpreted to be racist or divisive. Rowley said he heard Chaguanas Mayor Orlando Nagessar complaining that vendors were coming into Chaguanas from outside.

Rowley said the statement was interpreted to mean that people from PoS and Laventille etc were going into Chaguanas.

"I didn't hear people calling on any body to make a timely intervention to clarify anything," he said.

He said he wanted such persons to point out where anybody has said anything disrespectful from the other side and they call on them to retract what they have said or done.

"I, as Opposition Leader, chose what I wanted to go out with, I didn't leave home naked (he dressed in Indian wear), I took my wife and responded to an invitation to go to Divali Nagar, the Prime Minister, Jack Warner and Devant Maharaj pissed on me. I didn't hear Reginald Dumas or anybody else defending me or asking for a retraction," he said.

Rowley reiterated that neither himself nor Orville London encouraged Sandy by cheering him or anything of the sort when he made the statement.

He pointed out that in his speech at the launch on Sunday, he stated that he could work with former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. "What is Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj's race? How potent is that statement as compared to any inappropriate statement that Mr Sandy may make," he said.

He said the first two people he acknowledged on the PNM platform were PNM chairman Franklin Khan and deputy political leader Rohan Sinanan.

"I have upbraided Sandy, he has apologised, I have nothing more to say on this issue," he said. He added that he did not need anyone to tell him how to relate to people who are of different race, different religion, different geography or different ethnicity. "I have grown up in this country. I have been here now from 60 years," he said.

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