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PNM candidate for Parlatuvier/ L’Anse Fourmi/ Speyside Franka Cordner

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and People’s National Movement Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine yesterday slammed the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) for allegedly sharing video clips and audio featuring the party’s candidate for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, Franka Cordner, involved in lewd dancing and making derogatory comments about her colleagues.

In the two short videos, Cordner is seen dancing suggestively in a public setting, including with an unknown man. In the audio clip, Cordner is heard slamming Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy, saying she looked old and that she (Webster-Roy) was lucky that she (Cordner) did not “take she man.” There is also a recording of Cordner bashing current Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, saying she expected better from him as a younger, more vibrant replacement but “it was the same thing.”

Cordner apologised for her action during a THA campaign meeting in Bell Garden on Thursday night and was endorsed by Webster-Roy and Davidson-Celestine.

Contacted on the issue yesterday, PM Rowley said, “That is coming straight from the UNC guiding hand from their playbook of nastiness.”

Rowley said when he campaigned against Tobago stalwarts like former president ANR Robinson and Hochoy Charles and Lennox Denoon in Tobago he never faced such tactics.

“It was never like this, personal attacks and nastiness,” he said.

“We battled long and hard during many campaigns but once the results were in we accepted defeat graciously, as we accepted victory jubilantly. Not so now. The style of the empty-headed and dirty-handed politics is a constant stream of personal attacks and the desperate search for a mark to buss even when you look and sound foolish doing it or when their obvious lies fail to ignite.”

He agreed that this type of politics will in effect keep younger people out of the arena.

“The perpetrators who are the past masters do so under the guise of defending the public from all manners of trumped-up worries when in fact, it is their agenda of a pathway to where they want to get whilst being almost totally worthless,” he said.

“What else do they know? What else do they have?”

This is not the first time Rowley has decried the lowly state of today’s politics. Two weeks ago, he spoke to the UNC’s current politics and noted that in battles with former leader Basdeo Panday, there was always a modicum of respect.

During the political meeting on Thursday night, Davidson-Celestine said in speaking with Cordner after the clips were circulated, it was revealed that the PDP deputy leader was involved.

Yesterday, Davidson-Celestine again said she was holding the PDP solely responsible for the attack on Cordner.

“Character assassination and hate speech don’t belong in Tobago. And (the) PDP needs to apologise to every woman on this island,” Davidson-Celestine said in a text exchange with Guardian Media.

She said the country has seen Duke’s “verbal abuse of women and Farley’s silent support.”

“But if that is the campaign PDP wants to run, exploiting young women, then it says desperation and win by any means necessary,” she said.

“Do we want the leaders of that ilk to run Tobago? PDP needs to do better by our women, especially with the younger generation, who look to us as leaders, for a voice and guidance.”

Meanwhile, social media seemed to stand behind Cordner. There were clips of Duke speaking at a PDP campaign earlier this year in which he called two Tobagonian women “stink and dutty.” Some people defended Cordner, saying she was young when the videos were recorded but was now more mature and had grown up.

Farley denies smear campaign

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine yesterday denied he was behind the leak of Franka Cordner’s videos.

“There is absolutely no truth that. Zero truth whatsoever. No clips of her started with me, or was distributed by or was authorised by me,” Augustine said.

He said Cordner blaming him was an “absolute foolish attempt to deflect from her need to be responsible with her own words.”

“Additionally, I have made it clear to my team that most of these videos contain irrelevant political material,” Augustine said.

“Her voice recording from the Twitter space, that is relevant. Her lewd dancing, that is irrelevant. Her opinion on why my earlier opponent Rory lost, that is relevant. What she thinks of Ayanna, that is irrelevant.

“Furthermore, we believe that these materials made their way into the public domain from her own camp in an attempt to create a superficial rift and to give her prominence in the political space.”

He added, “I have no need to share clips of Franka to win my seat. My strength in my district is well known. And while the PNM is hypocritically making her a martyr, I wonder where is the PNM’s Women’s League.

“This is the same person, who, along with her colleagues, demean and ill-spoke other female candidates over the last two elections and that was acceptable. It is just crazy weird that they are now holding her up as the gold standard for demeaning one of her own.”