SHOW OF SUPPORT: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and TOP leader Ashworth Jack at the party's launch of candidates on Sunday night at Old Market Square, Tobago. —Photo: ELIZABETH WILLIAMS

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'Jack, new THA chief secretary'

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Ashworth Jack, political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), was on Sunday heralded as the man who can revolutionise Tobago as the island's next chief secretary.

At the party's presentation of candidates at Old Market Square, Scarborough, every speaker hailed Jack as the next chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) —a position he is vying for at the THA polls on January 21.

Justice Minister Christlyn Moore, who chaired the event, declared that the TOP was ready for the fight to change Tobago.

"We are here to warm up for the battle, we are here to test the swords, to inspect the shields," she said.

THA Chief Secretary Orville London was lambasted by every speaker. He was accused of wasting billions, leaving Tobago undeveloped. Jack was championed as the saving grace.

Said TOP chairman Lionel Coker, "In four years our political leader Ashworth Jack has moved from zero to hero."

He noted that London spent $22 billion in 12 years and "Scarbourough is the shanty town of the Caribbean."

Minister of Tobago Development Dr Delmon Baker said the TOP came bearing gifts for 2013 including a "brand new, spanking, handsome Chief Secretary".

He briefly mentioned that "Express put meh business in the road" referring to his gastric bypass surgery last year which he only admitted to after an Express exclusive report.

Baker went on to claim that Hochoy Charles who is also leading a slate to contest the election, under the banner of The Platform For Truth, was betraying the people of Tobago by helping London and the PNM get back into power by splitting the vote.

Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin urged the people to go out and vote on January 21 as a vote for the TOP was a vote for Tobago's autonomy.

She said London has failed to develop many sectors in Tobago including health where she claimed there were some 50 to 70 amputations per month and there was no warfare or minefield on the island.

"London has made us the laughing stock of the world," she said as she noted, "I am seeing in Tobago squalor as never before."

Some of the TOP candidates also spoke and pledged their devotion to transforming Tobago.

Candidate Anselm Richards stressed the importance of self-governance for Tobago saying that Tobagonians will soon have the power to sit in Scarborough and make laws for the island.

"We have been kept constitutionally colonised for 50 years by the PNM," said Richards.

Candidate for Bethel/Mt Irvine Shelly-Ann Rollocks-Hackett, a school principal said that the education system in Tobago was in shambles.

She said the THA still continues to dish out a curriculum that alienates young people and lamented that there are a large number of students leaving primary school who are unable to read.

The TOP, she promised, will develop education in Tobago and ensure that the Tobago integrated campus is constructed.

Youth speaker Andrea Bonas said young people were struggling in Tobago and appealed to her peers to stand up and make progress for Tobago.

The event was jam-packed with over a dozen performances including that of calypsonians Sugar Aloes (Michael Osuna) and Crazy (Edwin Ayoung).

The meeting started just after 3 p.m. with a scattered crowd which grew to an energetic gathering filling the venue by 7 p.m. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar arrived at 6.40 p.m.

Jack appeared visibly moved by the show of support for him and the TOP. He danced on the stage and then made his way though the thick crowd hugging supporters before heading back to the stage where he delivered his address.

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