THE PRIME Minister has issued a stinging condemnation of the Tobago House of Assembly's Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and his executive, saying they did not have the mandate of the people of Tobago.
Dr Rowley said if Farley and his Tobago People's Party (TPP) members wanted to be taken seriously by the Central Government and Tobagonians, he should "make arrangements for an early election."
In an op-ed posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, the Prime Minister spoke of the behaviour of Augustine and his THA executive, saying "even at this confused stage should be of great concern to the national population."
Rowley listed those "concerning acts" perpetrated by officers of the assembly under their warped interpretation of the country’s Constitution and the THA Act.
They included what the Prime Minister said was the "flagrant disregard" for the Environmental Management Authority Act by the Secretary for Infrastructure; Augustine's alleged public support of the "illegal action" on the grounds that the act did not apply in Tobago; his filing a motion to encourage "constant and repeated breach of the EMA Act, in wilful disregard of the law;" the "childish wanton attack on officers of the Transport Division in the discharge of their duty in Tobago"; and the "demand by the Secretary of Infrastructure and Transport, that licensing officers from Trinidad not be allowed to function in Tobago."
Trevor James holds the portfolio of Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport in the THA.
Rowley went on to say Augustine and his executive, being elected members of the Progressive Democratic Patriots, when the party took control of Tobago in the December 6, 2021, THA election, had "created a situation where the business of the Executive of the THA has ended up in the hands of a self-serving group of independents, who, while under no legal requirement to resign their positions, have no mandate from the people of Tobago."
Augustine and several of his executive resigned from the PDP in December 2022 after a public spat with PDP leader Watson Duke. Last week Augustine and his team announced that they had formed a new party – the TPP – with him as political leader.
However, Rowley said," A brand-new political party is now spawned with an intention to take its place within the walls of the THA. Should this occur without an election this resultant Executive authority without reference to the Tobago electorate would run counter to the espoused lofty 'principles' being espoused, of nurturing democracy from the ground up when it is time to form a party but dispense with the basic tenets of 'for the people by the people' democracy when it is time to hold on to office to the exclusion of the electorate."
Rowley said the actions of Augustine's THA executive were "deliberately laying the groundwork for an anticipated period of unnecessary, unproductive discord and numerous expensive and destructive outings to the court for adjudication, clarification and more."
However, he assured that Central Government will continue to do all it could for Tobago.
"Whilst we have been doing and will continue to do everything within our means to make sure that at the level of the Central Government, everything is done to give Tobago every opportunity to benefit from good order and good governance it is also to be expected that the Central Government will continue to persuade the THA to respect the limits of its authority and act within the confines of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.
"The political aspirants would do well to begin this humbling process by subjecting themselves to the electorate before it is too late."
Joining the Prime Minister's call for new THA elections was political analyst Dr Indira Rampersad.
She said what is taking place in the THA now has never happened before, and raises concern.
“There are concerns that they were not duly elected to the THA through this current party,” she said. “Anyone would be concerned about that because it questions the democratic process. You are supposed to come into office through democratic elections.”
She noted, however, that the THA constitution allows for members to hold positions in the THA – including Chief Secretary – as independents.
“So what Augustine should do is call an election now, his people run under his party banner, Duke’s people run under their party banner and the PNM runs under their party banner, so you would have a democratic election taking place,” she said. “That is to give the THA members legitimacy as elected members. Otherwise, they are hanging in there as independents because they were not elected.”
She said a new election did not mean the PNM's chances of reclaiming the THA, or any other party's, would improve.
“The question is whether the TPP is ready for an election,” she said. “Or whether the PDP and the PNM (are) ready for an election.”
She said it may be possible for PNM to claim the THA once again, because the votes would be split, but it may still not result in a win for PNM.
Hours earlier, Duke, in a live video on social media, also called for elections. He had uncomplimentary names for Augustine.
“Where we are is that we are currently in a position where Farley and his gang have hijacked the THA and there should be an election in the THA,” Duke said.
Newsday tried multiple times to reach Augustine by phone. When he finally answered he said he could not take calls at that moment.