Hours before the anticipated swim to Toco in Trinidad, Minority Leader in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Watson Duke remained unfazed by the repeated warnings for him not to attempt his ‘swim protest’ scheduled for 8 am on Monday.
One week ago, Duke announced that he would be attempting to swim from Tobago to Trinidad in an effort to highlight the plight faced by Tobagonians due to the ongoing issues on the sea bridge.
Speaking to reporters yesterday morning at the Scarborough Fishing Depot, where the swim is expected to start, Duke said everything is in place and all teams were ready.
“We are ready. This swim protest will be done with Tobago in mind and if you ask me if Tobago is ready, I would say yes Tobago is ready. Tobago is ready for the opportunity to decide its future. A simple thing like the sea bridge and the air bridge must be decided by Tobago. For 125 years and eight months, Trinidad has been deciding for us and still we have been battling problems after problems. We are saying that the time has come for Tobago to be the final decision maker on the ferry it wants, on the type of airline system operating the air bridge,” he said.
He said that during the swim, the team, will be doing some trade as well as delivering letters to both boards of Caribbean Airlines and the Port Authority.
“We would be taking down some provision, we would plant a tree when we get there and we would be bring up a wheelchair for a guy within my district, so we are actually going to do some trading in Trinidad. We also will be taking few letters to Trinidad; to Caribbean Airlines and to the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago requesting meetings with the Minority Council of the Tobago House of Assembly, so as to ensure that the minor people, those who are excluded from the Prime Minister’s closed door session will have a voice, this is what true democracy is all about,” he said.
The Minority Leader went further, indicating that this swim protest will benefit Tobago tremendously, as according to him, the situation requires a struggle.
“In order for something to reach the national community, it requires someone of national status. Every single struggle will define a leader or produce a leader. I believe that this struggle produced me, I am not really one to get involved in politics but Tobago has been suffering for the last 16 going on 20 years. We are saying that the time has come when we need a voice, we need a voice in the Tobago House of Assembly to stand in defense of Tobagonians and say to the almighty Central Government, we in Tobago speak for Tobagonians. This is why there is the THA elections, this is why there is a THA act, speaking about autonomy and giving us responsibility over 33 different areas of Government and yet, we lack the opportunity to make a decision,” Duke said.
Questioned as to how he felt even amidst critics as many are doubting that he could complete this task, Duke said the idea is ‘not to prove that we are the best swimmers’.
“By any means necessary, we will hold fast to that. The idea is not to prove that we are the best swimmer out and make the Guinness book of World Records but the idea is to ensure that Tobago is placed on the national agenda and if nothing is done within short order, short measure what will happen is that we may be forced to swim and go back to trading using fisher boats and canoes, this is the reality. It would be means that are unorthodox, means that are not the best means but means none the less the represents the struggle of every Tobagonian who is contented with the air and the sea bridge. The numbers you will have to be here to see,” the Minority Leader said.
Additionally, on Friday the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard issued a media release warning Duke of the risk associated with such a swim, while at the same time, indicating that they are unable to dedicate any resource or give any assurance for a voluntary expedition at this time.