‘MIND YUH DAMN BUSINESS’
‘MIND YUH DAMN BUSINESS’
“Just mind yuh damn business!”
This was Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine’s response to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s call to the Augustine-led administration to seek a fresh mandate.
On his Facebook page yesterday, Augustine posted a video of the Prime Minister addressing a political meeting in which he (the PM) states:
“I am not involved in their business. As Prime Minister I stay out of Tobago’s business. The law keeps me out. I have responsibility as head of the Cabinet and then I am out of your business. Tobago’s business is run at the administrative level by the Tobago House of Assembly. It is the only place in the country where I am Prime Minister where there is an Executive body running the affairs of that part of the country and you all better understand that.”
Augustine added this comment to the video: “Well just mind yuh damn business then!” An attempt by the Express to reach Augustine yesterday by phone went to voice mail.
The Prime Minister on Sunday, in an op-ed on Facebook which was later issued as a media release, called on Farley and the members of his team who had faced the polls as members of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) but are no longer so to seek a fresh mandate, contending that “through a series of expulsions and withdrawal” the Executive of the THA had ended up “in the hands of a self-serving group of Independents”.
Rowley said: “A brand new political party is now spawned with the intention to take its place within the walls of the THA. 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 (by Augustine), 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 office to the exclusion of the electorate”.
Not Rowley’s business
Commenting on the PM’s call yesterday, former Tobago parliamentarian Pamela Nicholson said: “The Prime Minister can’t call for a fresh mandate. Our Act, or the Constitution, says every four years the Tobago House of Assembly holds their elections.”
Told that the Prime Minister recognised that there was no legal requirement to call the elections now, Nicholson said: “He recognise that? And what he making statement about?”
Told that the PM’s argument was that the current administration consisted of persons who left the PDP, the party through which they elected in December 2021, Nicholson said: “But that is not his business, that is the people of Tobago’s business”.
Asked whether she felt that there was no need for the Augustine-led team to seek a fresh mandate, Nicholson said: “There is no need for the Prime Minister to make that statement. That is my view, okay.”
On the Licensing controversy, she said she was not too informed on that. She said she knew that the Constitution stated that the Licensing Division was under the purview of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. However she said the THA Act also “said something about the Licensing”.
Moral and ethical consideration
Attorney Martin George said the legal issue was distinct from the ethical and moral issues.
Commenting on the PM’s call to the newly formed Tobago People Party to seek a fresh mandate, George said it was “technically correct” that the current members of the THA who form the Executive Council came into office on a PDP ticket, but the law—the THA Act—was radically different from the legislation which governed the national parliament (with respect to the crossing of the floor).
He said the legislation which governed the national parliament made it pellucid that if you enter the House of Representatives on the ticket of a political party and you no longer are a member of that party, you must vacate your seat and a by-election is called for that seat. He said if this principle were applied (to the THA), then Augustine and his followers would have no choice but to vacate their seats. “However the THA Act which was crafted and drafted after these provisions were entrenched in the legislation in the national Parliament made no such provision in the THA Act,” George said.
He added: “There is no legal basis or no legal imperative upon which one can say you would force them out of office from that perspective. There is however the moral and ethical consideration and the moral imperative which is something that Dr Rowley is averring to. 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 and say ‘we think you ought to do this over and go and seek a fresh mandate now that you have formed this new political entity’. So we have to wait and see how they (the leaders) treat with it and how the people of Tobago treat with it. Because the people of Tobago may very well say ‘we are happy with things as they are, we don’t wish to upset the apple cart’. Is there a sufficient groundswell of opinion and public sentiment to say you need to go and validate this party you have now formed by calling fresh elections and if there is an overwhelming outcry for that then I think the moral and ethical imperatives will eventually compel Mr Augustine and his supporters to do so.”
By: Ria Taitt