Almost two years after being sworn in as Minority members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Minority Leader and representative for Roxborough/ Delaford; Farley Augustine, Representative for Speyside, Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi, and Councillor Dr Faith BYisrael are yet to be granted official office space by the Assembly.
Duke, Augustine and BYisrael, who contested the THA election under the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) banner, have been operating from the open air James Park, which adjoining the Assembly Chamber on Jerningham Street, Scarborough. Duke is political leader of the PDP.
Speaking at the media press conference at James Park on Tuesday, BYisrael repeated a call for the THA Executive Council to operate with fairness and integrity and provide office space for Minority Council members to allow them to carry out their duties.
“It is concerning, it is disturbing and Tobagonians should be insulted by the fact that we are here almost two years later without an office, particularly when the Chief Secretary (Kelvin Charles) can extend his office space.
“He (Charles) also has the audacity to go ahead and purchase a three- quarter- of-a-million-dollar BMW vehicle, which brings the fleet in the Office of the Chief Secretary to three luxurious vehicles, so he cannot say the office doesn’t have money,” she told reporters.
“One of the office spaces we had agreed to, they said they didn’t have money to rent it. We are now seeing signs up at that building for the Division of Health Wellness and Family Development. We are also understanding that the Tourism Agency is also in that building… all we had asked for was a simple space so we can do what we need to do to defend Tobagonians,” said BYisrael. “The Executive Council is in charge of the entire Tobago House of Assembly, has the resources of the THA, they have access to the money and all of the technocrats, engineers, research personnel, accounting personnel. The Minority Council doesn’t have access to any of that because we have not been given any resources whatsoever.
“So anything we have highlighted is because we have gone out and done the research, when in fact we should be resourced with the personal and equipment,” she said.
Referring to $777,817 BMW bought for use by Charles by the THA, B Yisrael contended this purchase was proof that a space for the Minority could have been provided months ago.
“When he (Charles) can have three luxurious vehicles at his disposal, when he can expand and refurbish their building (Administrative Complex) but the Minority Council is without any resources, this proves a lot.
“All the Minority members go home with is our salary. The Tobago House of Assembly act shows the Minority Leader is there to speak on behalf of those people who do not agree with the Chief Secretary. The Minority is there to speak on behalf of those with an opposing view of what the Executive Council is doing, and with us in this position makes it very difficult for us to continue doing that.”
“We will continue to work for the people, we will continue working from the ground…and we will continue acting on behalf of you even though this PNM-led THA Executive Council is doing everything in their power to try to stifle us, to try to stifle the voice and will of the people,” she said. Earlier this year, office space at #2 Hamilton Street in Scarborough was identified by the Assembly Legislature and THA’s Property Management Unit, with officials taking Minority Council members on a tour of the space. The Minority members agreed to occupy the space but have not been given any keys to the building since then.