Chief Secretary Farley Augustine believes there is no need for fresh Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.
Augustine was speaking on the Tobago Updates morning show on Tuesday, the day after he and 15 other THA members announced their resignations from the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).
Their resignations were made via a signed letter and were effective from December 1.
In an accompanying statement, Augustine told Tobagonians he and his colleagues remained focused on serving them.
The resignations came approximately three months after Augustine and PDP leader Watson Duke had a public feud, which saw Augustine and two others stripped of their PDP deputy-leader positions and Duke resigning as deputy chief secretary.
Augustine and the other Executive Council members' split with the PDP has sparked calls from the public and political rivals for a fresh mandate.
Augustine dismissed those calls on Monday and said their work in the THA continues.
The PDP defeated the PNM 14-1 in the December 6, 2021 THA elections.
Augustine said currently in the House, there are 13 independents, one PDP (Duke) and one PNM (Kelvon Morris).
He said his and his colleagues' move is “extremely legal, extremely constitutional.”
Referring to the late ANR Robinson, he said when the THA Act of 1996 was being drafted, Robinson insisted it should not reflect what happens in the House of Representatives, which he said is often undemocratic.
“He wanted a House of elected members with just four appointed councillors, but he did not want a House that was run by the politics of the party – he wanted a House run by the people who are elected, so that people have more allegiance to the people who elected them than to the political party under whose umbrella (they) would have campaigned.
"One must also appreciate the fact that on any ballot paper, there are two primary things that are there – one must absolutely be there, the other is optional. One, there is a party symbol and the second, there is a name of a candidate.
"You vote for a candidate in every single electoral district; you may not need a party symbol, because you can in fact run as an independent member, but you definitely need a candidate.”
He said 13 candidates have decided they would no longer represent the institution known as the PDP.
“We believe that it is highly untenable that the party chairman and the party leader believe that the party’s direction must basically be on the decree of the political leader – that’s no democratic.
"That whatever the political leader says is the law and that all the members must go by, that is a very untenable position. We believe in country over party; we believe in people over party; we believe in ensuring that the governance of the island continues in a focused and stable manner.”
Asked about promises made to the people while following a PDP plan, Augustine said the candidates were responsible for putting the mandate together.
“We, the 13 members, along with others, went out to the people of Tobago over almost an entire year – between the six-six in January 2021 and the elections of December 2021. We asked you, 'What do you want?' and we were the ones that collected that data, we were the ones that sat down in guesthouses and villas, sat down in each other’s living rooms, sat down late into the night, going over and over plan by plan and saying this is what we got when we walked.
"We compiled that document, so that document that is the mandate remains government policy, it remains the guiding principle upon which we govern. It is that mandate that has given rise to several wonderful things you have seen.”
He said the PDP internal rift was unanticipated.
“That is not something you could have foreseen a year ago, and it is the nature of the business that we are in. There are always several moving parts, and sometimes things evolve. We also must appreciate that life occurs in seasons, and the season that is the PDP is just over for most of us.”
He said Duke played a major role in the circumstances that unfolded.
“One must ask themselves the pertinent question of why would an entire team depart and leave its political leader behind.
"A year ago, I came to the people and I led a team successfully, and throughout the year that passed we have been on – mission, executing a lot of those brave, bold, progressive moves. And a year later we have a lot to be thankful for."Augustine said he would be the first to acknowledge that "we have more work to do. I would be the first to say that where we are we have done good, but there is always better and best to be done, because we have to appreciate that we have to keep moving and keep pushing.”
He said he took some time on Monday night to reflect and his mind went back to his boyhood days.
“In the neighbourhood, we would all come out to play – let’s say, cricket.
"There is always that one guy who is fortunate enough to own the bat and the ball, but whenever he is out, whenever the rules of the game don’t suit him, he wants to change the rules ...So he just keeps batting, because the bat and the ball are his.
"The minute the team says, 'No, well, these are the rules of engagement we agreed to,' he would take his bat and ball and go home, and the rest of the team is forced to pick coconut branch to make a bat and perhaps use young coconuts to bat.
"(But) guess what? The game continues, the work continues, the cohesion among the neighbourhood children continues – and that one individual is left with his bat and ball by himself.”
He wished Duke the best.