Deputy Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and PNM candidate for Belle Garden/Roxborough/ Delaford Hilton Sandy yesterday said he was sorry for making statements while speaking at a PNM meeting last Friday about a ship from Calcutta heading to Tobago.
THA Minority Leader and leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Ashworth Jack deemed the statement “racist,” saying it was proof the PNM had been using race to scare people out of voting for the TOP in the January 21 THA election.
In a telephone interview, Sandy said he meant no harm by the statements, saying they formed part of regular “political picong.”
He added: “It is very unfortunate that people are trying to blow this out of proportion. It was just some political picong but it was no racist talk. It was not meant to offend anybody.
“I have a lot of Indian friends. There are a lot of Indians in the PNM. I just want to extend an apology to the country. I would like you to apologise to the public for me and tell the people of T&T that I am sorry."
Sandy took issue with Jack’s raising the issue, saying it was Jack who appeared to be playing the race card because of how he interpreted the platform statements.
He said Jack should also explain to the country why he said nothing when Minister of National Security Jack Warner asked “where are the Indians?” during a PNM march in Port-of-Spain.
Sandy said he used of the word “Calcutta” as he thought about the Brother Marvin song, Jahaji Bhai. He added the idea of using the word came to him as he was speaking and he did not expect it to be so offensive.
Sampson Nanton is deputy head of news at the T&T Guardian’s sister station CNC3, and is reporting from Tobago on the THA election campaign for GML’s Tobago Decides coverage.