Political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke has called on all “like-minded” Tobagonians in both Tobago and Trinidad to be prepared to surround the Red House and demand Tobago’s autonomy.
Duke, who retained the Roxborough/ Delaford seat in the January 25 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, was speaking virtually. PDP assemblymen held a meeting to discuss the party’s latest developments and current events in the various constituencies and alternative divisions, titled Black Table Talks, on Wednesday evening.
The meeting which ran for just over an hour, focused on the joint select committee’s latest draft recommendations on the Tobago Self Government Bill, which has been put out for comment.
Having gone through the document, Duke accused the government of trying to control the self-government process by changing the legislation. He said what was sent to Trinidad and then to the joint select committee as the Constitution Amendment Bill (Tobago Self Government) is now back as something completely different.
“What left Tobago in 2018 and went to Trinidad was a constitutional amendment bill and they put in brackets 'Tobago Self Government 2018.' That bill was designed to amend the Constitution to give Tobago certain rights. It was not the rights that we totally wanted."
He said what came from Trinidad last week "almost knocked us down. It’s called 'Constitutional Amendment Bill' and 'Tobago Island Government Bill,' When did we get to this Island Government Bill? Was a debate passed in the Tobago House of Assembly for an island government? Was it passed? Did we debate on that?
"No. Trinidad is saying they do not want our involvement, they would give us an 'Island Government Bill.'”
He charged: “Trinidad is playing Tobago for a fool and it is time we begin to build among ourselves the kind of camaraderie, the kind of togetherness that the day would come when we would say to you, 'We need to go to Trinidad,' and whether we swim, we use a pirogue, a canoe or we go with the boat – by all means we must call out every single Tobagonian living in Trinidad to show up by the Red House.”
He believes Tobago's autonomy will usher in a new day for all Tobagonians.
“You will no longer have to depend on food to pass Tobago, go to Trinidad, then you go down to collect it. You no longer have to wait until cars pass Tobago, go to Trinidad, then you go down, buy it and bring it back up. You don’t have to go through those things again. You don’t have to leave here to go and study if you don’t choose to, you don’t have to wait until the boat brings up milk, rice and sugar. You would get those things coming right here to reach you, and so the time has come for us to live the life that we’ve always dreamt of: having more say in how Tobago is regulated and the type of success we enjoy.”
He said he sees this as possible, but said all like-minded persons must become involved.
“And there are some likeminded persons who are Trinidadians living in Trinidad, and there are lots of likeminded persons who are Tobagonians living in Trinidad. So we need to create the tag team.
"It is difficult to move a considerable amount of people from Tobago to Trinidad, because what we rely upon are structures that are confined in their spaces. The boat could only carry 500 people, the plane could only carry a certain number at a time – but we would need thousands of persons to come to Trinidad and to stand up and surround the Red House and to demand our justice. That’s the only thing that would bring this. The pretty talk and what we call the fancy legislation doesn’t bring this.”