THE Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) has said that the controversy surrounding a voice note allegedly involving two THA officials must not outweigh discussions for the upcoming Tobago budget.
In the voice note, which have been making the rounds on social media within the past two weeks, two people, believed to be THA officials, are heard discussing using state funds to hire people for public relations and propaganda.
Some people have linked the audio clip to Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett. But Augustine has not yet cleared the air on the issue despite numerous calls for him to do so.
In a statement, the IDA’s public relations unit said, “While the administration tries to navigate this maelstrom, Tobago will not tolerate nor excuse their dereliction of duty, especially at this crucial time of budgeting to fund the operations and development of Tobago for the upcoming year.”
The party, led by Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus, said sufficient time must be allocated for the outworking of a budget preparation system that ensures the island’s proposed activities are appropriately funded.
It added the participatory democracy demands meaningful engagement with the people in this process.
The IDA said the mechanisms that have previously been used to engage Tobagonians were inadequate.
“The approach of submissions via a portal, which has been used in the recent past, does not engender two-way communication and falls woefully short of effective inclusion of the people.”
The party said given the “lateness of the hour in this year’s budgetary process, it is doubtful that any substantive public engagement would be forthcoming.”
It said, “In the absence of a carefully managed budget process, there is the tendency of the administration to resort to proposing grandiose projects with poor rates of return but significant political hype which it will try to fund with the finances from central government or less than favourable alternative financing options, with no serious questions asked by the Tobago public.
“Therefore, in this upcoming budget, we are likely to see insufficient investment directed to the development of high productivity sectors that can produce exports and self-sustaining development of the private sector.”
The party described the situation as a conundrum, saying, “There are those who are seeking to draw blood for political gains.”
The IDA said while resorting to the former PNM administration is not an option, “Forging ahead with the current administration that is bent on deflecting persons’ duplications of behaviour with various distractions, which may have legitimate grounds, is also not a workable alternative.”
The party argued that the current system of governance has failed to keep successive administrations from having and exercising unfettered power over the people.
“We must now rally as Tobagonians to clearly articulate for our self-determination in a manner that guarantees we focus on a new framework that ensure we are building a better future for all.”
Addressing the voice note issue directly, the IDA said it has “exposed the unscrupulous and nefarious intent of the administration” and should be deeply concerning to Tobagonians.
It continued, “This issue should, therefore, not be viewed through the partisan lens of ‘politics as usual’ but should be weighed and measured through the administration’s campaign slogan of ‘Leh We Fix Dis,’ in which they vowed to eradicate the unfair and corrupt practices of the previous administration.”
With the removal of the previous THA administration, the party said, “We, the people of Tobago, sent the resounding message that we are tired of the old style of politics. Enough is enough.”
The party added, “For the pendulum to swing and settle back on the rejected stance is more than a disservice to Tobago and Tobagonians who will not accept the ‘duck and hide’ position of the current administration on this matter.
“To date, no statement has been issued by the Chief Secretary or his administration. Instead, we see distractions being placed within the public domain to divert attention from the seriousness of the matter. The Innovative Democratic Alliance demands that the Chief Secretary and his team show true leadership and “man up to clear the air.”