Duke promises ex gratia $$ for THA staff by Xmas

FILE PHOTO: PDP political leader Watson Duke  -
FILE PHOTO: PDP political leader Watson Duke -

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke has promised THA employees that if his party is successful at the polls on December 6, they will receive an ex gratia payment for Christmas.

At Wednesday's virtual political meeting, Duke assured supporters, "We will find the money."

The THA currently employs around 60 per cent of the island's workforce.

Duke said, "That is why you put us there – to find the money. Doh study that. When we begin to pull the books under Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, and we find the money, we will take money and put dey. That is what a government does.

"We come to take charge, we ain't come to play."

Duke accused the PNM of not prioritising people and instead spending money on vanity projects in Tobago, including the $18 million Prime Minister's residence in Blenheim.

"A vanity project of humongous proportion. The man only comes in that house once or twice a month.

"If we take that money to build that house and put it in workers' pockets, who have been slaving to build this country, slaving to mind their children, slaving with bills and weigh it against a house for one man, as against 20,000 homes – which is better? Make that judgment tonight.

"They don't want y'all to get anything in this country, for them to throw a lil food card on allyuh."

He told supporters, "A vote for the PDP on December 6 will be a vote to ease the financial strain you all have been under."

Duke said the PNM has been attempting to "muddy the waters" and make the PDP's promises look like a joke.

"To reach out to you who put the money there in the first place, to say we understand your hardship, we understand the crisis you in, we'll give you something – we ain't say what is the something yet – but that is too much.

"'Doh give them nothing, doh promise them nothing.'"

He said the PNM's promises seem more unrealistic than the PDP's as he knocked its leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine's plan to distribute 2,000 lots of land in four years.

"We must allow Tracy to give them false promises – 2,000 lots in four years, when historically they've only produced 11 per year?"

Duke said the PDP intends to tackle unemployment by giving each electoral district $10 million annually.

Where will the money be coming from?

"There is a developmental budget. When yuh in charge yuh in charge.

"L'anse Fourmi is as good as Scarborough. Why should all the development take place in one side of the island?"

"When you vote on December 6 you are voting for development in your electoral district."

Duke said PDP supporters have nothing to fear if they win the election.

He said since the tied January 25 election, the PNM has tried to win back the electoral districts they lost by paving roads and spending on other projects.

He said if PDP wins the THA election, Tobago would get its biggest budget from the PNM.

Tracy: PDP leader wants secession

But PNM political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine was not impressed with Duke's promise of an ex gratia payment.

Davidson-Celestine reminded Tobagonians that Duke has publicly called for secession on the political platform.

"We have heard it from their mouth," she said at a political meeting in Whim on Thursday.

She said if PDP got into power there will be "mass retrenchment" in the THA.

She said Tobago's recurrent expenditure is $2 billion and the PDP would have to fire THA employees for secession to work.

"When Watson Duke said, 'We are going to give to THA workers an ex gratia payment,' in effect what they are saying to you is we are starting to arrange your severance pay package."

Davidson-Celestine warned that secession will decrease the standard of living and raise the cost of living in Tobago.

She said simple activities such as travelling to Port of Spain will be an inconvenience as you might need a visa to travel.

Davidson-Celestine said Duke and PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine are not in agreement on whether the party wants secession or autonomy, as she urged Tobagonians to protect their future.

The PNM leader said her party plans to create a division of information and technology to assist the THA in going paperless.

She added that the THA will collaborate with the private sector to create 3,000 jobs.

"The PNM will ensure you are safe, whichever sector you fall into," Davidson-Celestine said.


"Duke promises ex gratia $$ for THA staff by Xmas"

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