"An insult to the intelligence and integrity of all Tobagonians. And if you examine it carefully, it is a racist statement."
That is how returning Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Orville London yesterday described comments by United National Congress (UNC) chairman Jack Warner that Tobagonians voted purely on the basis of race, tribal instincts and ethnic fear in the THA election.
In a statement on the election results, Warner said the results reflected how palpable the notion of fear among the African population can be.
"All the PNM (People's National Movement) had to do was resort to their age-old tactic of instilling fear that some other group would take away the little they had, and the tribal instincts did the rest..."
London said there was no place in the country where issues had trumped ethnicity, racism and cultural differences like Tobago.
He said over the years, on many occasions, Tobago had rejected the PNM and had voted in support of alliances which included the ULF (United Labour Front) and the UNC. He said Tobago rejected the PNM for over 30 years in local and national elections. And he said it was the same Tobago electorate which, in May 2010, overwhelmingly supported the UNC-led People's Partnership coalition.
"Race could not have been considered the element there," he said, adding that it was a case of the people of Tobago believing at that time the People's Partnership Government was the best for the people of Tobago.
London said one of the issues that people also took into consideration was the unethical behaviour of people like Warner himself, who came on a political platform and told a blatant untruth to the people of Tobago on two occasions.
Warner had stated that London owned seven houses and a gas station. London recalled that when Warner was called out, he could not substantiate his statement. He said Warner's own credibility suffered because he gave misinformation to the people of Tobago.
He said one of the major issues was the credibility of the major players in the People's Partnership Government.
"This is not about race... This Government does not understand the psyche of the Tobagonian and does not understand that there are certain things which Tobagonians do not tolerate and certain things they just do not forgive. And among the things they do not forgive is disrespect, a lack of credibility, a lack of integrity, the telling of untruths and the attacking of the characters of people unjustifably."
London said Tobagonians get very distressed when people in high office go on a public platform and deliberately try to destroy a Tobagonian.
"And that is something that transcends politics. When you try to destroy a Tobagonian who does not deserve it, all of Tobago rises up against you," London stated.
Ashworth Jack said yesterday he wanted to wait until he saw Warner's statement.
Asked if he believed race played a part in the election result, he said: "I want to be sure you are asking me that question based on the statement, when I see the statement then I would make a comment."
PNM Leader Dr Keith Rowley, like London, said the statement was yet another insult to the intelligence of the people of Tobago.
He said Warner was clearly not content to insult Tobagonians with untruths and blandishments which failed spectacularly, but was now prepared to insult them by invoking race, claiming they substituted that for intelligence.
Rowley said Tobagonians voted against a bad government which had been abusing Trinidad and Tobago and that government included Warner, who was of the same race as most Tobagonians.
He said what Tobagonians repudiated was a government that was unacceptable, disrespectful, corrupt and incompetent.
"They have turned down the offer of a potential chief secretary who could not explain how he came about certain assets, and a Prime Minister who defended him," he said.
He added that it was disrespectful for Warner to hide behind racial and ethical curtains and to now invoke racial ferment to protect a government that would fail.
"When we beat them in Trinidad with the vote of persons from every race, colour, creed and class, I wonder what Mr Warner would say," Rowley said.