Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke said the majority of Tobagonians are poor.
Duke, who aspires to become Prime Minister after the August 10 general election, was speaking on Sunday at a political meeting in Delaford. The PDP is contesting just two of the 41 constituencies.
He said, "This is not just representation for Tobago East or West, this is representation for the entire country. We are placed in a position of king-maker...Whosoever is winning the election, they better win big because if they require our vote to decide who becomes Prime Minister, the Prime Minister will have to come from Tobago."
Duke said he intends to raise the minimum wage to ensure no one earns less than $5,000 a month. He said people are suffering and making sacrifices in their lives that they should not have to.
"We want to eradicate poverty from Tobago. If you have little money, you are poor. If you are hungry, you are poor. If you can't feed yourself, you are poor. If you lack shelter with leaky roof, you are poor. All of us are battling with poverty. If you are sick and can't go to the doctor immediately, you are poor.
"How many of us sometimes get a toothache and instead of going to the doctor right away, take some old, cheap rum and throw it on the tooth because you have to buy school shoes? How many of you have a broken window and take the night draught because you can't fix that now? How many of you going to work with a hole in your shoe?
"If you are experiencing any of those symptoms you are poor."
Duke declared, "That $5,000 is a bare minimum. If I was a wicked man and didn't have love for the treasury, the real minimum wage of this country is about $10,000."
Duke said those opposed to his plan are selfish and only eyeing cheap labour.
"Poor people have to eat, they have to live. What the hell wrong with allyuh? The people commenting (negatively) on that salary fat. They looking for cheap labour."
Duke said the PDP has been on a home repair drive and if elected, will continue this programme. He said all materials will be provided and Cepep workers will be upgraded to assist.
CHARLOTTEVILLE TO CROWN POINT HIGHWAY
Duke promised a "superhighway" from Charlotteville to Crown Point.
"The shortest route to anything is straight. A man must be able to go to Northside in 20 minutes. It makes no place in Tobago far and it makes all those inaccessible lands accessible – water, lights, telecommunications.
He said the party's next plan was to give every family in Tobago "a couple acres of land.
"It is from that basis we will build black business. We will give you loans in the Tobago Development Bank. There will be a Tobago Development Bank that Central Bank has no control over."
Duke said he has no regrets over the exit of Sandals last year. The international resort chain pulled out of a Tobago project, citing sustained negative local press.
"I deserve a round of applause. If Rowley say I stop Sandals, then I'm a great man. Make sure and put that in meh bio. I protected this island. I protected this treasury from going into the largest debt of this era – US$1 billion. It prevented us from being water-fetchers, drivers and gardeners saying, 'Yes, boss.'"
Duke promised to construct four small universities on the island to study arts and culture and tourism, food production, marine environment studies, pubic health – applied and alternative.
The PDP leader said alternative medicine, of which Tobago has knowledge, has a place in the modern world.
PLAN FOR DELAFORD
Earlier, PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine said the party has a plan to develop Delaford.
"Last election we told you that we want to develop Tobago, child by child, family by family, village by village. We understood since 2016-2017, that the only way Tobago can do better is if we break down Tobago all the way to the smallest child on the island...Communities like Delaford deserve some government attention now."
Augustine said the PDP supported Delaford youths' 2018 project to rehabilitate King's Bay waterfall.
"Yuh know what them wicked people in THA do? As soon as they say King's Bay waterfall start to clean up, they run in with big contractor and run out the youth men. Pay big contractor to build restroom in King's Bay waterfall...They come now and mamaguy the young boys to send in proposal to manage the area...
"When we talk community development, what we have been saying is, development in the community must involve the actual members of the community. When you have projects, instead of looking for a big contractor, we will come and call out the villages and the villagers get paid to do the work.
"That is community development. That aids in wealth distribution.
"It is obscene the way they treated these young men with the waterfall project."
Augustine said apart from roadside vendors and the market, Delaford lacks commercial activity.
"Every young professional from Delaford moves out after they finish university...We will engage members of the diaspora to come back home to Tobago to live. You have produced some really bright minds...This elections is not about bacchanal and lacouray."
Augustine said Duke's expertise as head of the Public Services Association will augur well for Tobago in Parliament as he will advocate for their rights.
"He comes with trade union experience. He knows how to negotiate. We sending cousin Duke to tell them we can't have parliamentarians driving in big-time vehicle, who could live nice and eat ham, lamb and jam even in the dry guava season, and you, who vote for them, suffering. That cannot be right."