Duke seeks talks with PNM after THA tie

PDP political leader Watson Duke talks to supporters in Roxborough on Monday evening after his party tied the THA election 6-6. - DAVID REID
PDP political leader Watson Duke talks to supporters in Roxborough on Monday evening after his party tied the THA election 6-6. - DAVID REID

Political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke wants to sit down and talk with leader of the PNM Tobago Council Tracy Davidson-Celestine.

So he told a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Scarborough, hours after the THA election ended unofficially in a stalemate.

Up to Tuesday afternoon, the PNM and the PDP, the two main parties which contested the election, had won six electoral districts each.

Duke is calling on the PNM to support his deputy leader Farley Augustine as the next Chief Secretary.

Speaking to supporters in Roxborough on Monday after his party tied the THA election 6-6, Duke said the PDP would not support any PNM candidate for the post.

Duke, acknowledging the constitutional challenge of a 6-6 stalemate, appealed to the PNM to support Augustine, the re-elected Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside representative.

Telling his supporters the PDP did not want to return the polls, Duke said the situation required negotiation, which he was accustomed to as president of the Public Services Association (PSA).

At a press conference on Monday Duke reiterated, "Farley Chavez Augustine remains the candidate for chief secretary in the Progressive Democratic Patriots. I continue to play my role as the political leader, which is for strategy and direction of the party."

Despite the stalemate, Duke said, “They cannot try to bully us to accept a PNM THA nor can they bully us to accept a date for another election, for which we have not subscribed. I want to call upon all of Tobago to see this moment as our Kodak moment – a moment when a beautiful picture comes out of darkness.

"Certainly, I wish to remind you that on Thursday, the executive of the THA comes to an end: what we would have is assemblymen, 12 assemblymen, no councillors. Yes, we can operate in our constituencies, but we are not able to create policies or discuss in a way that leads to the enactment of the law – issues on behalf of Tobagonians.

"That, to me, represents darkness, it also represents the silence of our legislature. It is one thing to have 12 nil and not have an opposition and its another thing to have six-six and neither parties can be executive or opposition.”

He said, as PDP political leader, he intends to write to Davidson-Celestine seeking “a meeting of the minds...

“Fortunately for the PDP, we do not have to send for any handlers, we are our own leaders, and we represent the indigenous population of Tobago.

"However, for the PNM Tobago Council, their handlers are in Trinidad and we expect them at this point in time to cut that rope loose, so they can speak freely on Tobago’s interest and join us and bring into political scope that issue of Tobago’s self-governance.”

He said that there were mainly two things in the Tobago Self Government Bill that needed to be dealt with, one being that Tobago was designated a ward of Trinidad.

PNM Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine talks to media at the party's Tobago headquarters after the THA election on Monday night. - Jeff Mayer

“Our push in the PDP is to push very hard and to do so noisily on behalf of right-thinking Tobagonians, that this bill must be placed on steroids; this bill must be given priority treatment now.

"Do not come on an attempt to fix part of the THA Bill...What we are calling (for), just as we had Eric Williams and Capildeo going to England to seek independence, we are calling upon Tracy Davidson-Celestine: now is the time to show that the Tobago PNM Council is independent from Trinidad. Show your worth by stepping to the table and let us discuss as one political party with another, the future of Tobago. If we must transform Tobago, then Tobago must become the arbiters of its own destiny.”

Deputy political leader Farley Augustine said, “As mature political beings on this island and leaders on this island, we have to work it out.

“From our end, we see that there is great opportunity in the crisis. As a party, we have met. This crisis presents an opportunity for the national Parliament to act ...the reality is that the national Parliament will have to act in order to help us solve this problem, because we do not have the legislative authority on the island.”

He said the party saw that as more of a priority than the elected PDP members "offering ourselves to be the executive of the THA, which no doubt we are and which no doubt we believe we should be, given that we have the majority of the popular votes.

"Even above that, we feel that it is an opportunity to say to the national Parliament, look, let’s have the autonomy bill done now. Let's have it done now so that by the time we go back to the polls, whenever that is, we will have a situation where we would be able to enact a new autonomy bill.”

In a release on Tuesday, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) said the PNM had won the popular vote in Monday's election. It said the PNM got 13,288 votes while the PDP received 12,798 votes.


"Duke seeks talks with PNM after THA tie"

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