AMID a bitter political feud that has paralysed the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), politicians in Tobago have finally found something they can agree on.
THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis (PNM) issued a call on Wednesday for anyone who still has a job to help the less fortunate. He reiterated his view that the employed – including legislators – should donate ten per cent of their earnings to people with none.
Mr Dennis’s position is notable because his party has been non-committal on this issue and he is staking a claim where there is no official line to toe.
But more strikingly, the Chief Secretary has somehow managed to find himself on the same side as Watson Duke (PDP), his strongest political opponent.
Mr Duke has urged people earning more than $20,000 a month to donate half their pay to assist those in need.
“Normally, Watson Duke is not a good example to follow,” Mr Dennis said at an executive council media conference in Tobago. “But in this case, I would encourage every single individual, not only leaders, but every individual that has a job now.”
The reality is, times are tough and not everyone who has a job will be in a position to help.
Nonetheless, we strongly endorse the calls being made across the board in Tobago for everyone who can help to make some effort to. Assistance can take many forms. With creativity and resourcefulness there is no reason why we cannot find some way to do what is right in these dreadful circumstances.
A great example is that set by Kerry Emamdee, Shane Daniel and Nicholas Daniel – part-time farmers, two of them policemen, who have made use of their “side hustle” of growing watermelons and other crops to be generous to the community at large. They recently donated 2,000 pounds of watermelon to people who responded to a post on social media.
“I decided to donate to charity because a lot of people are strained,” Nicholas, a pilot, told Newsday.
But this kind of action and attitude are not to be found everywhere.
According to the House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis (PNM), not everyone can afford to donate a portion of their pay or to take a pay cut.
“I am not donating my salary, because I can’t afford to,” said the Planning Minister. She said a combination of government support and charitable donations is being distributed through publicly-funded constituency offices.
On the other hand, Toco/Sangre Grande MP Roger Monroe (PNM) sees things differently. On Tuesday, he promised to donate three months’ salary to help needy constituents. And Naparima MP Rodney Charles (UNC) on Wednesday called for MPs to take a pay cut.
“We cannot live life while other people are suffering,” he sensibly said.