Watson Duke: Rowley ‘too weak to force’ THA election
Political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke supports the Prime Minister’s stinging condemnation of the Tobago House of Assembly’s Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and his executive, saying they did not have the mandate of the people of Tobago.
In an “op-ed” statement posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, Dr Rowley said if Augustine and his Tobago People’s Party (TPP) members wanted to be taken seriously by the Central Government and Tobagonians, he should arrange an early election.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, Duke agreed with the PM.
“We are currently in a position where Farley and his gang have hijacked the THA and there should be an election.”
He labelled the PM “too weak…to withhold the cash and force an election. He is too weak.
“He is playing a game where he hopes that every Monday morning, I would come out and fight Farley.
“I would not be fighting Farley. Farley is a product of my party and I would not fight Farley. I would give him a few blows.”
Augustine and the majority of the THA members are former PDP members,
Duke said at the end of the day the PNM has a responsibility as the island’s opposition.
“Let them oppose. Let (PNM THA member) Kelvon Morris oppose.
“I would not be taking my time to oppose Farley and them. Let Farley run, let him continue to deal Tobago unjust(ly)…It is up to Tobagonians to accept it or reject it, but your acceptance of this will signal to me and the national community, Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean, that Tobagonians are dotish.
“Around the world, people are rejection the oppressors – they reject them.”He criticised Tobagonians for “hugging up and loving up” a leader who had represented one party, then claimed to be independent, then presented another party, when “both the independents and the other party have had no mandate at any election campaign to present to you.”
He said an act of fraud is being committed.
“It definitely means: what are you voting for? It means that what the man came in to do, he has abandoned, and he is now…says, support him. That is a fraud. I’ve never heard of it in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world where an entire Cabinet resigned and continued to hold power at the same time.”
He said Tobagonians now have one thing to do.
“Tobago, you have to trigger an election. They have reached their end.
“Our mandate to Tobago was based on this simple thing – putting Tobagonians first.”
Chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George, in a WhatsApp message, said while the position of the PM may be technically correct, from the legal perspective, the THA Act is radically different from the legislation which governs the national Parliament.
The latter, he said, made it clear that “if you enter the House of Parliament on the ticket of a political party and you no longer are a member of that political party, then you must vacate your seat and a by-election is called.”
But the THA Act, he said, which was crafted and drafted after these provisions were entrenched in the law governing the national Parliament, has no such provision,
“So there is actually no legal basis upon which one can say you would force them out of office.”
He added: “There is, however, the moral and ethical considerations and the moral imperative, which may be something that Dr Rowley is averting to when he said, ‘Look, they need to get a fresh mandate.’
“But again, that is going to be up to the people of Tobago for them to decide if they wish to call upon their leaders to say, ‘Hey, listen, we think you ought to do this over and go and seek a fresh mandate, now that you’ve formed this new political entity.’”
He said it is necessary now to “wait and see how they wish to treat with it, and I guess how the people of Tobago wish to treat with it, because the people of Tobago may very well say, ‘Hey, we’re happy with things as they are.”
Newsday also tried multiple times to reach Augustine, Minority Leader Kelvon Morris, and PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis by phone, but all calls and messages went unanswered.
In December 2021, the PDP stormed into office, defeating the PNM 14-1 in the THA elections. But eight months later Duke accused the administration of failing to help a Roxborough cultural group which had gone to New York to perform and was left without funds.
Duke later removed Augustine, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson as deputy party leaders. He resigned as Deputy Chief Secretary and BYisrael replaced him.
Augustine and the other members of the THA executive resigned from the PDP on December 5, 2022.
Despite calls from political rivals and some voters for fresh elections, the assemblymen who left the PDP declared themselves independents.
Aweek ago, Augustine announced they had formed a new party, the TPP, with him as interim political leader.
BY: KINNESHA GEORGE