Under fire for his public statement about a “Calcutta boat” invasion of Tobago during a speech on the campaign trail in Dalaford last week Friday, Deputy Chief Secretary Hilton Sandy was forced to apologize after the issue erupted into a full scale racial furor on the national landscape. Sandy, who along with his fellow Peoples National Movement (PNM) candidate for Bacolet/Mt. St. George Joel Jack had appeared on the Radio Tambrin morning show the following Monday seemed unfazed by the gathering implications of his racially charged speech.
Show host George Leacock questioned both men on the issue during the interview. Sandy in his explanation insisted that it was not a racial statement. “The TOP have friends in Trinidad in the Peoples Partnership (PP) government. The Calcutta discussion was not a matter of India. It’s the same way that they bring people in their campaign in Tobago by boat,” he argued. Sandy refused to apologize, when he was given the opportunity to do so by Leacock and continued to defend his position.
“I understand some people are saying I was being racist but this is not true because in India there are black people and in Calcutta there are black people so this can’t be racist. There is nothing about being racial. This is about people and their friends, it is not racist,” laboured Sandy.
Questioned about his feelings about the statement, Jack with some hesitancy suggested that it was all part of political piccong during the election season. “I haven’t seen the headlines as yet for the morning so I don’t really want to comment further on it,” stated Jack. Tobago News was able to get a verbatim report from the earlier meeting that Sandy had referred to during his Calcutta speech in Dalaford.
At that meeting in Argyle, which was chaired by Rev Eastlyn Orr, Chief Secretary Orville London as well as Youth Speaker Cherish Trotman spoke on the platform. These were Sandy’s words in Argyle: “...before I leave, I want to leave this with you all. There is a boat coming from Calcutta. Do you all know where Calcutta is?” The crowd responded: “Yes India!” Sandy continued: Well, ok! After the 21st January, this boat will be coming to Tobago full with these people and they will invade Tobago if you all did not vote for the PNM!”