Chief Secretary Orville London has thrown further light on some of the contentious issues surrounding the welcome of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympians to Tobago last weekend.
He said that up to 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the only piece of correspondence he had received concerning the athletes was to inform him of a courtesy call by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Government Ministers and the athletes on Monday at 9.30 a.m. He added that this letter came from National Security Minister Jack Warner but the Chief Secretary was later informed that this was an error and it was really Tobago Development Minister Dr Delmon Baker and the athletes who were supposed to make that call. He said Dr Baker informed him at 7 p.m. on Sunday that the courtesy call was off.
London said what was disturbing was that when he spoke to Lalonde Gordon’s mother on Monday she informed him that she awoke her son at 6 a.m. to get ready for the day’s events and they were on their way from the hotel to the Chief Secretary’s office when she received a telephone call that it was off.
“My question to the Minister of Tobago Development is why is it that at 7 o’clock on Sunday evening you will tell me you cannot have the courtesy call paid on the Chief Secretary when 12 hours later the main person in that courtesy call is prepared and in fact is on the way to the Chief Secretary’s Office,” he added.
London reiterated that he was not aware of an invitation to join the motorcade when the event got on the way on Monday. He said he had spoken to Dr Baker on a number of occasions prior to the start of the motorcade and even reminded him of his invitation to attend the THA function for Lalonde on Monday night but Dr Baker never did mention he had sent an invitation for the welcome.
The Tobago Chief Secretary said he only received the invitation letter for the welcome from Dr Baker on Tuesday morning at his office.
London said it was necessary that the THA signalled to the people of Tobago and the rest of the country that in this particular situation “we attempted to operate professionally and with integrity and to treat our athletes with the dignity and of course the respect they deserve”.
“I am saying therefore that there was some game playing going on that was absolutely despicable and totally uncalled for in the circumstances. I want the people of Tobago to understand that we in the Tobago House of Assembly have acted with the highest respect for the role of the Central Government,” London said.
London who has never met Lalonde added: “I want them to understand that I would have called Lalonde’s father and Lalonde in the United States and we had made arrangements for him to come to Tobago courtesy the Tobago House of Assembly. We were then informed that after that agreement the Central Government decided to bring everybody, we said okay, we will attempt to fit our programme into those activities,”
London said the team was supposed to come to Tobago on Sunday so the THA fixed its function for Lalonde for Monday. He said the government’s programme was shifted to Monday and the THA said it had no problem with that since it was promised that its programme would be completed by 5 p.m. so the Assembly function for the double bronze medalist was fixed for 7 p.m.
He said what transpired on Monday was a travesty since Dr Baker indicated to him that Lalonde would be made available to the Assembly at 6 p.m. and this was confirmed by Minority Leader Ashworth Jack in a television interview on Monday morning.
London said Dr Baker called him at 7 p.m. on Monday night to say that Lalonde preferred to remain with his colleagues on the motorcade. “We had made an arrangement because Lalonde knew, his mother knew, the Minister knew and everybody was aware of the arrangement that at 6 p.m. he would leave the motorcade, we had everything in place, the ACP had organised for the security to get him down to the function.”
In closing the Chief Secretary said he did not want to have a continuation of this standoff with the Minister, adding that “we have to work together, I know him as a person of integrity, I am urging him please do not allow himself to get caught up in all of these untenable situations”.