Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine has hit back at PNM candidate Kwesi DesVignes for claiming his living arrangements disqualify him from being a chief secretary.
Augustine recently revealed he still lives in his father's home, as he was denied a loan by a bank despite being an assemblyman and a former teacher. He said young professionals across the country are experiencing similar problems, which he planned to rectify.
But Des Vignes – PNM candidate for Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah – questioned Augustine's ability to manage Tobago's affairs.
He was speaking at a meeting on Wednesday in Milford Court Park, Bon Accord.
Des Vignes said the PNM "builders that we have, led by the chief builder, Tracy Davidson-Celestine – we are going to continue building Tobago...we have big plans, and we are going to execute because we know how."
He said this reference to housing reminded him that: "I heard someone on the other side, the young boy – and I heard (Chief Secretary) Ancil (Dennis) call him the poster boy – boasting that he still living in his mother house.
"You want to be chief secretary of Tobago and you never even pay a light bill yet. You don’t know what it is to lead your own household yet. You don’t have a clue.
"What you still doing home, and you want to lead the people of Tobago. Man before time, little boy take your time. You feel is a parlour we running? This is no parlour, this is serious business.”
Responding on Thursday evening, also at Milford Court Park, Augustine, 35, said if Des Vignes considered him a little boy, then the Chief Secretary was also a little boy.
Dennis became the youngest ever chief secretary at 33, last May.
Augustine said when Dennis and a close relative had a disagreement, "He had to move in by his mother house, live in his mother’s house again before becoming chief secretary.
"So don’t tell me I can’t be chief secretary living downstairs my father’s house.”
He said the reality is that living in Tobago is not easy, especially for young people.
“There once was a time that people with university degrees, civil servants, those in the protective services could have enjoyed a good life on this island, could have afforded to buy car, buy land and build house – all in one.
"But we are at a time in our lives that if you’re a young professional, the best the THA has to offer you is a contract that you don’t get on time, that you have to change every two years, and you can’t go to the bank and get a long-term loan. That is the reality of our existence, and that has to fix.”
He said young professionals are struggling to get basic things their counterparts in other parts of the region and world are accessing.
He added that he had no time for hypocrisy and arrogance.
“I want him to ask Ancil, where the house he own? Therefore, if he could become chief secretary, I could become chief secretary too.”
He added: “I also want to make it clear that while I live at home, every single bill in my parent's house, I pay them. And my light has never been cut, my water has never been cut, my internet has never been cut, because I does want to see what’s happening online and my telephone bills are never cut.
"I pay every single one of them, because my father is now a pensioner, and being a senior citizen on this island and in this country cannot afford you much more than a bus ride and a few dollars at the end of the month.”
Saying he represents most Tobagonians, he repeated that many young people on the island cannot afford to buy land.
“And guess what they have to do – build up downstairs by their parents until they can build up enough capital to move out.
"That is responsible living. And I also want to make it clear to my upstart colleague on the other side that on this PDP team, while some of us still live at home, none of us had to be kicked out of an apartment because we owing rent. That is responsible living."