Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine has accused the PNM Tobago Council of wanting to cling to power until 2025 without resolving the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) deadlock,
Augustine, the electoral representative for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/ Speyside, in a recent interview with Tobago Channel 5, said of the six-six stalemate in the assembly: “As the leader of the PDP THA team, I could say that it’s unfortunate that we are now in the month of June, and we have made no headway on this matter. It is also purposeful on the other side.”
On January 25, for the first time in its 40-year history, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election ended in deadlock. The result has presented a constitutional challenge for the assembly.
Despite several attempts since then to resolve the impasse – one of which included discussing a power-sharing arrangement – the assembly remains in abeyance and yet to be properly constituted.
In the meantime, it is functioning through a “holdover” executive led by Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis.
The THA (Amendment) Act 2021, which seeks to increase the number of THA seats from 12 to 15 and give the Chief Secretary the power to call fresh elections, was passed in Parliament on March 2. The President assented to the act on March 16. It is yet to be proclaimed.
On March 3, the Prime Minister met with all 12 assemblymen in an attempt to resolve the impasse.
Augustine on Monday lamented the breakdown in negotiations and questioned the PNM's sincerity in ending the deadlock.
“We were the ones who went at that meeting with the Prime Minister and went prepared to make a deal.We said: 'Look, let us find a way to work together,'
"We went as far as to say we are willing to concede to you the two most powerful positions in both the Executive and in the Legislature – the positions of chief secretary and the position of presiding officer. We were saying we would take the secondary positions on the matter – we would take the Deputy Chief Secretary –and we said to create a balance on the executive, we would also non-negotiably take the position of the Secretary of Finance. We started discussions.
"Then we said, 'Look, here is a list of divisions we would like to have, and we are hoping that you will come back to us and say, "Look, these are what we would like to have" – it’s a negotiation.'
"That part did not work.”
He said the PDP then agreed to mediators, since the PNM and PDP could not agree on a way forward.
“PNM say no, they don’t want no mediators – Tobago doesn’t have anybody good enough to mediate between two parties.”
He said it was then that PDP leader Watson Duke called off the original deal, giving the PNM a chance to come to the table with new negotiations.
“Still no answer. PNM does not want any deal – they want this situation to stay as it is until 2025.
"They don’t want any form of good governance at all, And I am daring the PNM to come and refute what I am saying, because what they want is a situation where there is no legislature formed, so that no accountability can happen, no public accounts committee, no committees of the House.
"We have budget coming up in October. The law says that the THA is supposed to send to the national Parliament a budget by June. If we do not do that (Finance Minister) Colm Imbert will make a budget for Tobago, and it would appear as though PNM happy with that recolonisation of Tobago.”