Politicians, business heads concerned about Farley, Duke feud
There is huge concern about the fallout among Tobago House of Assembly “jefes” and its impact on Tobago’s economy, image and Carnival.
The Opposition United National Congress and Congress of the People are urging THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke to resolve their issues speedily.
And Tobago’s stakeholders have also expressed concern about the impact of the warring leaders on the island.
Simmering tensions between Augustine and Duke have thrust Tobago into the spotlight, after the situation erupted publicly last week over funding for the Roxborough Folk Performers on a New York trip.
On Tuesday, Augustine challenged Duke to move a no-confidence motion against him but warned the PDP leader that if it failed, he (Duke) would be removed immediately.
THA Minority Leader, PNM’s Kelvon Morris, had no comment on the impasse, despite Augustine mentioning his name in comments and there was speculation yesterday on Morris’ position if Duke decided to become THA Minority leader.
“The PDP business is the PDP business, therefore I hold no view, nor wish to proffer any solution and I don’t intend engaging in speculation at this time,” Morris said.
Yesterday, UNC deputy leader Jearlean John said, “The PDP presented a ‘People’s Mandate’ to Tobago’s electorate, on the basis of which the people on December 6, 2021, gave them an overwhelming mandate.
“As a Tobagonian, it’s my hope they don’t lose perspective and can find common ground and resolutions in the interest of Tobago’s people.”
COP interim leader Kurt Sinette called for the PDP jefes to get together and fix the situation quickly. Sinnette firmly supported Augustine.
“One must understand when you’re in charge, you can’t spend taxpayers’ money as you feel. They must understand their roles, position and why Tobagonians voted them in so overwhelmingly, so they could bring that change needed in Tobago—they need to take this into consideration ahead of personal feelings.”
Sinnette added, “We need to learn from this. I hope other parties heed this lesson and ensure something like this doesn’t happen in future governments.”
National Transformation Alliance leader Gary Griffith steered clear of the issue.
“That matter is an internal political party matter. The NTA intends to drink our water and mind our business.”
Innovative Democratic Alliance leader Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus said she is concerned Tobagonians are not receiving the attention required.
“Tobagonians voted for change. But nine months later, this is what they get? Disgraceful, disappointing and dangerous for Tobago’s economic stability. We have people looking on and going back, as they’re concerned about the unpredictable situation. Banks are hesitant to give loans due to contract terminations when PDP entered office.”
Bad for THA workers,
Tobago Chamber head Martin George said, “We still remain hopeful good sense will prevail and both men will be willing to have negotiations. The Chamber remains committed to help.”
But George admitted chances appeared dim, “given that statements appeared to be pouring fire on the issue rather than extinguishing it.”
He said if it continued the way it was, it looked like it was heading in a direction where one may have to go, “as two man rat can’t live in one hole.”
George said the impasse isn’t good for business, including Tobago’s Carnival and island stability.
“Even THA public servants are on edge. They feel a sense of uncertainty being pulled in different directions. That’s not good for Tobago. At the end of the day, it’s one party and one THA and they all should be working in the same direction for Tobagonians.”
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association head Carol Birchwood-James added, “The people spoke overwhelmingly with one voice, voting PDP in and in this situation, Tobagonians are also speaking with one voice—resolve this quickly so you can continue.
“We have Tobago Carnival in a month and also 2023 Budget. Therefore, they need to resolve their differences for T&T’s betterment, in private rather than a public spat.”
Former public service head Reginald Dumas added, “I’m monitoring the situation closely following Mr Augustine’s statements, but not holding my breath on a positive outcome.”
Former Minority leader Ashworth Jack, who’s advocated both men sit with an impartial team to try and work it out, said, “I pray it will be resolved quickly.”
Saying the bigger picture in the issue should be Tobago, Jack said, “Lack of communication is the biggest issue here but you can solve anything with communication. An Executive Council meeting doesn’t necessarily mean communication. Perhaps outside of the council meeting with a couple people they trust to be impartial, it can be fixed. Also, sometimes quick fixes don’t solve a situation and are just plaster on a sore. So, it needs to be done diligently.”
He added, “If people’s passion for Tobago is seen as the most important thing, any squabble will be resolved—I pray it will.”
Tobago Forwards leader Christlyn Moore had no comment.
By: Gail Alexander