A group of former politicians on Wednesday endorsed Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) candidates Watson Duke (Tobago East) and Tashia Grace Burris (Tobago West) for the August 10 general election.
The group, which included George Stanley Beard, Pamela Nicholson, Cecil Caruth, Regis Caruth, Dr Jefferson Davidson, Max James and Carlyle Dick, hosted a media conference at the Blue Crab restaurant in Scarborough to discuss the political landscape.
The seven were members of the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) and National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), then led by the late ANR Robinson and Hochoy Charles, respectively, and most served at either the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) level or national level.
Beard, a former tourism secretary who served the Assembly from 1984-1988 and 1996-2001, said the group met and came to a common decision.
He said, “Our discussions, it’s unanimous around the table that the grouping that...cares about Tobago issues, as we see it now, is the Progressive Democratic Party... Solidly we’re supporting them in this upcoming election."
Although endorsing the Watson Duke-led party, the former politicans said they were non-partisan.
“We are unaligned, we are non-aligned to any political organisation but we are saying, yes, the time is now for Tobago to understand you must give yourself the opportunity to make the decisions for yourselves. Your representatives must represent you in the national Parliament, you cannot allow persons to go into the national Parliament and be muted and not deal with the issues of Tobago.”
Beard added: “Like Watson Duke or not, like the PDP or not, you have one alternative… Robinson and (Winston) Murray went to Trinidad and made a difference. I am saying to us today, we are saying to Tobago: the time is now. It's Watson Duke in Tobago East and Tashia Burris in Tobago West, that’s how we see it, that’s how we call it.”
To support his position, Beard pointed out issues which he said would affect the election and the people of Tobago.
Among the issues highlighted were: the Tobago autonomy bill; accountability in the THA; squandering in the THA; failed social programmes; land acquisition for airport terminal expansion; the Sandals development; lack of political will from Trinidad politicians; mismanagement of the TT economy 2015-2020; lack of adequate planning; the PNM’s classification of Tobago’s growth and false promises for 58 years; lack of representation by the PNM Tobago representatives in Parliament over the years; the Prime Minister's threat never to forgive Tobagonians if they voted for the PDP; the PNM Tobago Council internal power struggle and replacing the Chief Secretary; lack of investment in the island’s human resources.
Former labour and co-operatives secretary Max James said PNM wouldn't deliver autonomy. He said, “If the Prime Minister was really serious about the Tobago project he would have said something about it in this campaign… Are you hearing any of his candidates speaking of it? Clearly the Prime Minister by the absence of a commitment which he can’t make, he’s not ready to deal with anything that is for Tobago. He is a Tobagonian, but he has now become unworthy.”