Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is calling for a fresh Tobago House of Assembly election if Chief Secretary Farley Augustine’s new party ‘takes its place within the walls of the THA.’
The Prime Minister made the claim in an opinion piece published on his Facebook page yesterday, titled ‘The Relationship, Authorities and Administration of these Archipelagic Islands.’
“Should this occur without an election, this resultant Executive authority without reference to the Tobago electorate would run counter to the espoused lofty “principles” being espoused, of nurturing democracy from the ground up when it is time to form a party but dispense with the basic tenets “for the people by the people” democracy when it is time to hold on to the office to the exclusion of the electorate,” Rowley wrote.
“If the independent political aspirants of the disintegrated PDP wish to be taken seriously by the Central Government and the people of Tobago, then the Chief Secretary would do well to make arrangements for an early election within the same time frame that he is making to register a NEW political party with the Elections and Boundaries Commission.”
Augustine and his independents resigned from the PDP last December amid a public spat involving himself and PDP leader Watson Duke. Augustine is now the interim leader of the new Tobago People’s Party, which was set up last week but is still going through a process of formalising itself.
While acknowledging the former Progressive Democratic Patriots members who won the 2022 THA election 14-1 have no legal requirement to resign, Rowley said the PDP’s collapse has created a situation where the THA executive is in the hands of “self-serving independents.”
He said the behaviour of the current executive should be of great concern to the national population.
He also listed the Secretary of Infrastructure’s flagrant disregard of the EMA Act, which he said was being supported by the Chief Secretary and the recent attack on Licensing Division officers as areas of concern, but noted there were other similar developments which “laid the groundwork for an anticipated period of unnecessary, unproductive discord and numerous expensive and destructive outings to the Court for adjudication, clarification and more.”
“Whilst we have been doing and will continue to do everything within our means to make sure that at the level of the Central Government, everything is done to give Tobago every opportunity to benefit from good order and good governance, it is also to be expected that the Central Government will continue to persuade the THA to respect the limits of its authority and act within the confines of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“The political aspirants would do well to begin this humbling process by subjecting themselves to the electorate before it is too late. The peace, good order and continued progress of the people of Tobago are at stake and demand no less.”
Meanwhile, PDP leader and former THA deputy chief secretary Watson Duke also called for fresh THA elections yesterday.
He said Tobago is now in a position where Augustine and his gang had ‘hijacked’ the THA.
“Both the independents and the party (PTP) have no mandate at any election campaign season to present to you what they are voting for. It meant what the man came into, he has abandoned, and he’s not presenting anything to you and saying support him,” Duke said in a live stream aired before the PM shared his op-ed.
He also accused the PM of being too weak to do what is necessary to get Augustine out of the THA hot seat.
“The Prime Minister is too weak to rule on this. He’s too weak to withhold the cash and force the election. He’s playing a game where he hopes every Monday morning, I will come out and fight Farley. I want to say to Tobago that I will not be fighting Farley,” Duke said.
“Let Farley run. Let him continue to deal with Tobago unjustly. It’s up to Tobagonians again to accept it or reject it. If they accept it, that would signal to me and the rest of the Caribbean that Tobgonians are dotish.” Guardian Media approached Augustine at last night’s Tobago Jazz Festival finale at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet. However, through his protocol officer, he said he would prefer not to comment on the matter.
However, deputy THA Chief Secretary Faith B Yisrael, in a response to Rowley on her Facebook page yesterday, said the elections would be called when it was constitutionally due.
Calls have no merit – political scientist
Commenting on calls for fresh elections in Tobago, political scientist Dr Shane Mohammed said they were irrelevant and without merit.
He said the formation of the Tobago People’s Party does not affect the functioning of the THA.
“The Act (Tobago House of Assembly Act) also makes provision where the administration is not recognised whether it’s a PNM administration or a PDP administration. In fact, it allows for the administration to be recognised as an institution on its own standing.
“Therefore, even though the Tobago People’s Party has been formed and the interim political leader is the Chief Secretary, they are not standing up in the legislative chamber and identifying themselves as PTP members,” Dr Mohammed said.
The political scientist said the calls are part of what is an expected and obvious political backlash from the formation of the PTP.
However, he said he would have advised the Chief Secretary that there was no need for the formation of the PTP. Priority should be placed on providing Tobago with good governance, Mohammed said.