Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jack and the Pumpkin Patch

As TOP leader Ashworth Jack continues with his amazing account of how he sourced funds to finance his four million dollar mansion at Mt. St. George, one is reminded of that well known fairy tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. IT SEEMS THAT JUST LIKE THE ORIGINAL JACK WHO PLANTED THE MAGIC SEED AND CLIMBED THE BEANSTALK TO FIND THE STACK OF GOLD, THIS MODERN DAY JACK MUST HAVE PLANTED MAGIC PUMPKIN SEEDS AND FOUND HIS POT OF GOLD IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH.

Ashworth Jack cannot expect right-thinking Tobagonians to accept his story that he could have raised at least four million dollars in a single year from planting pumpkin and cucumbers; earnings from what we all know are very modest business enterprises; and payment for services a project manager who has no formal training and limited experience. The arithmetic is just not right. In fact the arithmetic is frighteningly wrong and if it is, all Tobagonians must fear the consequences of an Ashworth Jack in the Chief Secretary’s chair for a four year period.

We must be reminded that the Integrity in Public Life Act is based on the premise that a public figure acquires an asset with funds that are used either through earnings, borrowing or gifts. That is why the Integrity Commission instructs that all public officials must provide information to the Commission on all sums earned, all moneys borrowed and all gifts received. The Commission will be particularly interested in gifts received because the Commission recognizes that when gifts are received by public officials, it could place them in a position where they are obligated to the ‘gift giver’ and might be perceived to return favours, if and when they are in a position to do so. 

The concern which many Tobagonians share is that Ashworth Jack has stated publicly, on many occasions that he built his house “from his pocket”. That eliminates the borrowing option and therefore, if he cannot prove that he funded it from his earnings during that period, then one can reasonably assume that there was “gift giving”. Ashworth Jack will also have to admit that his judgment in this matter is highly questionable. Jack has admitted that he made a down payment on the land more than ten years ago. He has also made contradictory statements about whether he has completed payment for the purchase of the land, but what is irrefutable is that he did not have legal possession of the land during the construction of the house. 

Consequently, it must be asked whether he received Town and Country Planning Permission for the construction of a house, on land which he did not own; he will also have to answer questions on the strategies used to persuade WASA, TTEC and other agencies to provide the residence with relevant utilities.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this entire scenario is the timing of the construction. Mr. Jack is attempting to convince the Tobago public that, after not being able to pay for the land over the previous ten year period, his fortunes improved to such an extent after 2010, that he was able to source funding to construct his four million dollar mansion. This has to be placed in the context of Jack’s decision to forge and inextricable bond between his Tobago Organisation of the People and the United National Congress; his unwillingness or inability to criticize the People’s Partnership Government for many of the atrocities inflicted on the citizens of Tobago and the rest of the country; and his pledge to Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar on a political platform that “Tobago is yours”. Should we conclude that Tobago was sold for “a house on a hill”?

During the past week, Ashworth Jack has not helped his cause nor endeared himself to the unbiased, by his sneaky attempt to cast aspersions on the integrity of some PNM Secretaries who have built houses. The Tobago Council is heartened that the Secretaries were able to demonstrate that their houses are being built with funds raised either from their savings or by borrowing. They have also confirmed that all relevant transactions were reported to the Integrity Commission. Their explanations further underscore the preposterous and precarious position in which Ashworth Jack has placed himself and highlights the demand that he has to “fess up” with Tobago’s public, especially at this time when he is aspiring to the highest office in the land.

Ashworth Jack must recognize that this is one issue from which Tobagonians will not be distracted. The stakes are too high. Ashworth Jack must be able to convince Tobagonians that he is not beholden to any one, that he has received gifts from no one and therefore he is under obligation to no one. He has to do this but based on the information he has made available to the public, it is unlikely that he can. However, the Council is convinced that even the most ardent supporter of the Tobago Organisation of the People must be troubled about the credibility of their leader at this time. The rest of Tobago is even more concerned at the frightening implications if the right decision is not made on Election Day.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar has said that Tobago will complete the ring of People’s Partnership control. Tobagonians will have the option to decide on January 21 2013. The choice is between a party and a leader whose commitment to the development of Tobago for many decades cannot be questioned and a party whose leader is still unable to prove that he is not beholden to some ‘gift giver’ who will be demanding his ‘pound of flesh’ if he ever assumes control of Tobago.
Tobagonians the choice is clear. The decision is yours.


Reproduced from Tobagonews

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