ECONOMIST Dr Vanus James is adamant that under a PNM central government, Tobago will never get internal self-government.
Speaking at the Progressive Democratic Patriot’s (PDP) drive-in meeting at Black Rock on Monday evening, James endorsed the Watson Duke-led party, saying “the PNM has had its foot on the necks of the people of Tobago” for too long.
James said, in 2015 Tobago sent former Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe and former Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy to Parliament for one reason.
He said, "They went down to Trinidad, they collected $3 million (salary) apiece, full pay, and just before the elections they came back and they told you, 'No self-determination for you.'
"They don’t even have the decency to take the bill to the floor. No self-determination is the single most important form of wickedness against Tobagonians, other than threatening you with your political freedom.”
James said internal self-government would mean more empowerment and resources for the island.
“As a senior professor of economics in Tobago, if they had given us our self-determination, we would be able to get every year in this Tobago at least $4.5 billion worth of resources for our budget. Then nobody in Trinidad would have to come and say, 'I giving you an airport.' If you gave us our self determination, we could build our own airport. If you gave us our self-determination, we could build our own wastewater plant. We wouldn’t need anybody in Trinidad, Prime Minister or no Prime Minister, to say, 'I giving you airport and I giving you wastewater plant so I doing good for you.' We would not need them to do that, and they know that."
James said the PNM was content to keep Tobago under its control.
“If you listen to Rowley the other night, right here in Tobago talking...what Rowley is doing there is trying to turn the THA into a PNM vote bank. That’s the Laventille plan that he has for Tobago, that is why he doesn’t want you to get any internal self-government.”
James said he had no intention of being part of political campaigns but WAS claimed there was political victimisation within the THA.
“Last Wednesday, I was lying in my bed still, 6 o' clock, and somebody picked up the phone and called me and said, 'Dr James, you have to come down to Works Division to defend one of the Tobagonians who is standing against the PNM and is being threatened with the loss of her job,'” he said, adding that he had been warning Tobagonians that the THA being the main employer of the labour force was a threat to political freedom.
“So said, so done. The PNM decided to fire one of those persons who working within the THA but decided to swing from the PNM and become a PDP member. I said to myself, if nothing else could get you off the fence, this should.
"We cannot allow the PNM to focus on anyone of us, threaten us, drive us into mental slavery and scare the hell out of us so we can’t talk politically here...That is a threat to our rights and our democracy in this Tobago here and we can’t afford that. If you want to vote for PNM, go ahead and do that, no threat. But if you want to leave the PNM and vote for the PDP, that’s your business. Tobagonians should not tolerate that and for that reason, I say to you tonight I’ve come off the fence and I want to tell you, pull out your political guns and on August 10, go down there and vote the hell of the PNM out of office.”
He said the PDP would be "brave and strong and capable of looking after our interest in internal self-government.”
Responding to the accusation of political victimisation, Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Environment Kwesi Des Vignes urged James to not just make claims on a political platform.
He said, "I encourage Dr James to come forward with any information or evidence he has to substantiate his claims. Rest assured, a full investigation will be done into the matter once the information is forthcoming. The DIQE prides itself on our commitment to delivery quality to all people of Tobago."