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NGO calls on Chief Sec to break silence

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Kinnesha George Chief Secretary Farley Augustine File photo -
Chief Secretary Farley Augustine File photo -

The Tobago CivilNET wants THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and Secretary of Education Zorisha Hackett to break their silence on the now-viral voicenote which was leaked on social media last week.

In a press release on Monday, CivilNET expressed concerns about the release of the audio clip in which two senior THA officials were allegedly discussed using public funds to hire people to carry out propaganda on social media. The clip began circulating last Tuesday but neither Augustine nor Hackett have responded to it.

The release said after two days of intense discussions, they arrived at a consensus.

It said Augustine and Hackett owe it to the Tobago public to come forward within one week of the audio being leaked and issue public statements, accepting or denying the veracity of the audio.

“Regardless of whether the alleged leaked audio is true or not, Tobago CivilNET condemns that all-too-common use by politicians and political parties vying for office or in the seat of power as our government, of using fake profiles to push propaganda with the sole intent of deceiving an unsuspecting society.”

It added, “Furthermore, we strongly condemn the use of the people’s purse to finance the very deception against them, by those entrusted to use that purse to better the lives of the people they have sworn to serve.”

It noted that coming forward and addressing the people on this matter will serve to quell the rising tide of confusion and disillusionment sweeping through the Tobago space, from social media to the marketplace, from morning talk shows to the dinner table.

“Tobago is grossly divided on this issue, some seemingly celebrating what appears to be a crash and burn of the current THA executive in question, some seemingly heart broken and disappointed that people they placed their trust in would be involved in something so insidious, yet others cling feverishly to the hope that artificial intelligence was used by enemies of the administration in order to derail them.”

It added that the executive is now seemingly oblivious to the reality that the world will see this as an adverse mark against Tobago.

“Additionally, the silence of our leaders is further tearing at our fragile social infrastructure already damaged by the divisive nature of party politics. Our leaders must put Tobago first.”

In the voice note, a man is heard telling a woman to “create a plan, strategy whatever” to hire people for PR and propaganda.

“Bring it here, once we get approval, if we have 13 people now. You might just need five or seven to do the strict PR, you could use some to do some propaganda, whether they are going to use fake profiles or their own profiles whatever they do and what you will have to consider is finding a way to employ people on the THA side,” the man said.

The woman responded, saying some people are “happy to do the thing on the side voluntarily once we employ them.”

The man was also heard telling the woman, “I don’t want us to stop campaigning.”

Newsday made attempts to reach Augustine and Hackett but visits to their offices were unsuccessful. They have not responded to multiple phone calls, texts and WhatsApp messages for comment since the audio was leaked.