ANGELO MARCELLE AND DARCEL CHOY
After diving into the sea in Tobago yesterday, Minority Leader in the Tobago House of Assembly, Watson Duke lasted about an hour in the choppy waters before he was towed by a jet-ski and then later taken by fishing boat to Toco.
Once in the boat, Duke told reporters the journey was tiring and very dangerous but they were “hell bent” on making it.
“Physically it was a struggle, but spiritually I felt determined. This represents Tobago’s struggle to get to Trinidad on a daily basis,” he said.
Duke said he felt his actions raised the level of discussion on the issues facing Tobagonians.
“It’s not about believing in me, it’s believing in the struggle Tobagonians have to go through.”
Duke said their intent was not to make the Guinness Book of World Records but he felt they did very well.
Asked if he thought he would have made it that far out to sea he said, “No, my intention was to be in the water as long as I can.”
Duke also disclosed his plans to deliver a letter to President Anthony Carmona, Caribbean Airlines and the Port Authority requesting meetings to discuss the sea and air bridge.
At 1 pm, pirogues and jet skis that were part of Duke’s protest team, dropped them off with approximately half mile swim remaining to reach the Toco fishing depot. It was evident some kind of discussion was taking place in the water as the swim took some time to restart.
On shore, curious onlookers gathered rapidly as the word spread throughout the village that the man of the moment had arrived. Some bystanders were given the opportunity to board a boat and ride alongside Duke and his team as they made their way to shore. While many were cheering on the final leg, others were not as impressed.
At about 2.05 pm, Duke emerged from the water to deafening silence before some cheers were heard. As the other swimmers gathered next to him in one line, he said, “It was a long journey; rough. Persons fell sick but we held the strain.” Duke reiterated that it was never his intention to swim the entire distance as reported but to show that the methods he used, was the only alternative the average Tobagonian had if they wanted to get to Trinidad.
“Tobago must decide!” He said. “It has been 125 years and eight months of suffering by the Central Government telling us (Tobago) what we want. Tobago must decide!” He explained it required no constitutional change for Tobago to have more autonomy in its affairs.
“It requires no constitutional change, only respect.”
Duke accused THA Chief Secretary and Secretary of Education, Innovation and Energy, Assemblyman Kelvin Charles of being silent on the problems concerning the seabridge.
“It doesn’t end here. We will continue acting.......until the Satanic Central Government and THA are shaken.”
Duke said his next swim would end at the port in Port of Spain at an undisclosed time and date.
At a popular bar in the village, residents were split as to whether Duke’s feat was meaningful. One man said he knew Duke could not swim the entire distance, while another said the intention was never to do such. One young man made it clear he wasn’t interested in the event. All of the men agreed that to the best of their knowledge, no one has ever completed a swim from Tobago to Trinidad or vice versa.
On social media, many people praised Duke for his efforts. One woman said, “I hope people appreciate what was done today.” Another said, “I really hope something significant comes out of this. It would be an utter disgrace and shame to know that after all this action for love of people and country that it could fall on deaf ears, but God is good.”