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...London now has a chance to heal 'race-talk rifts'

By Kim Boodram

TOBAGO House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London now has the opportunity to leave a legacy of good governance and heal any rifts caused by "race talk" during the THA election campaign, hotelier Allan Clovis said yesterday.

Even before what Clovis said were "unfortunate" comments by Belle Garden East/Roxborough candidate Hilton Sandy that a "ship from Calcutta" was waiting to storm Tobago, fears of a Tobago land-grab by East Indians from Trinidad were being expressed on the ground.

"It was an issue," said Clovis, general manager of Kariwak Holistic Haven and Hotel.

"And the talk appealed to the baser instincts of some people. The extent to which fear drove the election is reflected in the results," he said.

He added that the fears were indicative of an "insecurity" among some of the population and he did not share their sentiments.

Clovis said London could now make a choice to leave a legacy of positivity through the manner in which he governs.

"How do you manage power that has been given to you out of fear?" Clovis asked.

"Are we going to see an Orville London setting about to establish this legacy of good governance? He has a totally free hand now. Is he going to rise above all the negative perceptions that he may have contributed to over time? Or is he going to be business as usual?"

The Tobago Organisation for the People (TOP) was roundly beaten in Monday's THA elections, with the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) walking away with all 12 electoral seats.

TOP leader Ashworth Jack who lost his Providence/Mason Hall/ Moriah seat to the PNM's Sheldon Cunningham, said Monday he would re-consider his position as party leader.

Clovis said the first few days of London's rule will "set the tone".

"Words can provoke emotions that are deep and rooted and London has an opportunity to plant new words with positive emotional charges," he said.

While the talk of race may have fuelled a more competitive sense among part of the electorate, Clovis said the numbers at the polls showed that there was no great increase for the PNM but rather a drop in support for the TOP. There are lessons for all the parties in Monday's elections, he said.

"This should bring about a sober moment of reflection for the People's Partnership and the TOP as well," Clovis said.

With Tobago's international tourism trade seeing the biggest slump in over a decade and much of its visitor revenue coming from domestic travel, some hotel owners have expressed fear that Trinidadians boycotting the island will further dessicate their livelihood.

Clovis said he believed that those who have had positive experiences would continue to visit.

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