Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has warned Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke that he will "pay the political price" for his call for Tobago's independence from Trinidad.
Duke, at the PDP's election campaign launch on Sunday, promised to deliver self governance to Tobago in six months if the PDP wins the Tobago east and west seats at next year's general election. He hinted at secession, however, saying Tobago needs its own prime minister.
At a press conference on Tuesday, there was no hinting whatsoever as Duke boldly declared, “As soon as those two seats are given to me it’s my responsibility to ensure we go down on a boat ride full of Tobagonians to ensure independence. The constitution dissolves, there’s no longer Trinidad and Tobago. There’s Trinidad by itself and Trinidad by itself. We will now create our own nation.”
Charles, who was abroad on the weekend and returned home on Monday, denounced Duke's statements on Tuesday, saying he was completely misrepresenting the interests of Tobagonians. He said while autonomy is something Tobagonians are keen on, the majority have snubbed the idea of independence as they are all loyal to the twin-island republic.
"While Tobagonians have, over the years, passionately advocated for the right to have a greater say in the development of the island, they have even more forcefully resisted any idea of secession," he said.
"All discussion, negotiation, proposals, suggestion advanced by different and competing political interests over the last many years have always been framed in the context of the unitary state of TT. Interestingly, there are probably more Tobagonians living in Trinidad than are currently living in Tobago. It is the prevailing view of Tobagonians on the island, in Trinidad and the wider diaspora, that the concept of the sovereign state of TT is sacrosanct."
With the general elections looming next year and the THA elections in 2021, Charles believes Tobagonians will express their disapproval at the polls.
"Mr Duke's try with regards to the non-issue of Tobago's independence, confused by his own warped sense of self-importance and engineered by his political handlers and masters in Trinidad, Mr Duke can rest assured that he would pay the political price for this most divisive and profoundly dishonest misrepresentation of our interests here in Tobago."