TOBAGO Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Diane Hadad says the organisation is deeply concerned about the island’s economic progress.
She made the statement on Thursday, hours after Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke resigned as THA Deputy Chief Secretary. However, he remains the party's leader and the assemblyman for Roxborough/Argyle.
Duke's resignation as Deputy Chief Secretary was the latest development in a public feud between him and THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine over the assembly’s response to the plight of some 27 members of the Roxborough Folk Performers who had gone to New York to perform at Labour Day celebrations.
Duke had claimed that outside of airfare for the members of the group, the THA did not provide additional funding to cover other expenses.
As a result, he claimed the members of the group were stranded, stressed and hungry.
Augustine has denied Duke’s version of the events, saying the assembly provided finding for airfare and other expenses to the tune of $400,417.50.
Augustine subsequently said he was reviewing Duke’s role as Deputy Chief Secretary as he had not been fulfilling several of his responsibilities.
On Thursday, Duke held a news conference at the PDP’s Barataria head office, saying he had lost confidence in Augustine.
Hadad said the development does not augur well for Tobago’s development.
“Based on what I have read and some of what I have heard it seems to be that we are not in a good place,” she told Newsday.
“It seems to be that Mr Duke has made himself very clear that he is not in a position to continue to participate and, therefore, he has made a very powerful decision in that he has removed himself.”
She added, “That leaves a lot now to the younger minds to deliver and he did speak to youth, he did speak to childishness, he did speak to a lot of questions that, of course, we have had in terms of concerns as to the delivery of the island’s way forward and economics. So the spotlight will now be on the team however strong, weak or medium.”
Hadad said since the PDP formed the THA in December 2021, the chamber “Has seen nothing of it.
“So it leaves us to wonder, ‘Where is this Tobago space or place or great little island that he (Augustine) speaks about?’”
She believes Tobago needs serious minds to carry it forward.
“Whether Farley and Duke will co-operate or go in search of the assistance and expertise that is required is another issue and we would need to look at it.”
Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George said the relationship between Duke and Augustine now appears unsalvageable.
Reacting to Duke’s sudden resignation, George said, “The fractures in the PDP party appear, at this point, to be beyond the point of no return and we reached the tipping point.
“So in those circumstances, it does not appear that this relationship is salvageable. We had hoped that it would have been otherwise but it seems for whatever reason that it has gone past the point of no return.”
He added, “Even if they try to give the impression of unity at a later stage, I think the public will be very suspicious of it and they will think that look this is a case of two men hugging each-other, each one holding a long knife behind his back waiting for the moment to strike. This unfortunately appears to be the end of the Watson/Farley relationship at this time.”
George said the chamber wants to see how the THA, under Augustine’s leadership, will navigate its way “out of the current crisis and debacle.”.
“We, as the Tobago Business Chamber and myself as an attorney hope that we can find a smooth, easy and effective transition to ensure that the business of Tobago continues and that the people of Tobago are not thereby disenfranchised or made to suffer as a result of this clash of personalities and this warfare within the belly and bosom of the PDP. It does not seem that they can remain together within the party.”