THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says Tobago’s development continues to be stymied.
Augustine told the Tobago Updates morning show on Wednesday that the overarching issue at hand is Tobago’s autonomy, and that autonomy is not necessarily about secession.
“Tobago’s development continues to be stymied by virtue of the fact that we really and truly do not have the kind of autonomy to make the moves that we want to make, and we have to be sure that when we are getting the autonomy, that we are getting what Tobago needs for its socio-cultural and socio-economic development.”
He said he has never been a proponent of secession, adding that TT can be a twin-island republic with devolution of powers.
“This is nothing new, there is no magic to it. It exists elsewhere within the Commonwealth – in St Kitts/ Nevis they have a federation for example. In the United Kingdom, they have broad, sweeping devolution powers. Even as we speak, Scotland is part of the UK but Scotland can pass its own laws, Scotland can set its own taxation policies, Scotland can hold a referendum if it wants to determine if it wants to actually secede or not...
“Outside of the Commonwealth, you have federation existing. You have other examples of how power can be devolved from the centre to outlying regions. So that doesn’t in any way challenge the notion of there being a twin-island republic.”
But Augustine said what his administration was seeking was for Tobago to decide on its socio-cultural, socio-economic needs and its development trajectory.
A week ago, in a Facebook post. Augustine told the Prime Minister to mind his own business and stay out of Tobago affairs. He was reacting to Dr Rowley’s call for fresh THA elections.
Questioned about the statement, Augustine said: “Sometimes you have to just give a one-liner, one statement to put things into perspective and to put people in their rightful place.
“The statement is very clear, is very logical, and the statement was also backed up with a video and two photographs from Act 40 of 1996 (the THA Act), the fifth schedule.”
He said when one looks at the law, there are several things that fall under the remit of the Central Government and thereby the Prime Minister that are left completely unhandled.
“...And then things for which he has no remit, no position in law whatsoever he is trying to have a position on.
And so I needed to remind the Prime Minister that his business, really and truly, includes the sixth schedule. “So when we have police stations falling apart, when we have prisons having to be relocated because it was in a bad condition and I had to intervene and send Works (the Division of Infrastructure) and spend THA money to repair the prisons so that Tobago prisoners can be here, so that families can have contact with them, so that our prisoners don’t get corrupted and end up in a pipeline for criminal activities – that’s his business.”
He said when one looks at the autonomy bill that is “lagging” before Parliament, which he said removed several things Tobagonians said they wanted in autonomy legislation – “That’s his business.”In the case of fire stations, he said, “I saw representatives of the union in Tobago recently talking about the state of the stations...in particular what’s happening down at Crown Point, what’s happening at Scarborough – I’m trying to find about $350,000 to help them complete the works n Scarborough.
“But really and truly, that’s his business, and so every so often, we have to remind the Prime Minister and the Central Government what their business is and get them in line. Because if you don’t, you would have situations where the little bits of autonomy that we do have, we would not enjoy them, because those are the ones they would see to mess with, whilst ignoring what their business really is.”
In many quarters, Augustine’s statement was viewed as disrespectful, but Augustine denied this.
“In my world, respect is a two-way street. In my world, respect isn’t automatic because of age. In my world he is an equal. In my world, regardless of his age and the fact that he is the second-ranked person in the order of precedence as set by Cabinet, in my world, respect must be a two-way street.
“Sometimes if you don’t trade your lamb-like character for a lion, people would walk all over you, and what I see is a great deal of hypocrisy pervading in the space. Hypocrisy in that – we have had instances where (the)former chief secretary, PNM Chief Secretary would lash out against (a) UNC Prime Minister and at the time People’s Partnership coming to Tobago to give out hampers, for coming to Tobago to give out food cards, bringing social programmes in Tobago. There is even on record former chief secretary Orville London saying to the then Prime Minister that she has no authority to call an election in Tobago. And yet we have a bunch of red hypocrites, in typical sycophantic style, encouraging the trampling upon Act 40 of 1996.”
Red is the PNM’s party colour.