Citing the “serious work” his administration has to deal with, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says he does not have the time to respond to the call of Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader to reconcile.
Augustine, the interim political leader of the Tobago People’s Party (TPP) told reporters he had yet to respond to Watson Duke’s call to join forces to serve the people of the island.
Duke made the call approximately one week ago during a news conference at the Progressive Democratic Patriot’s (PDP) headquarters at Port Mall in Scarborough. He told reporters he had written to Augustine asking that they reconcile their differences in the interest of Tobago’s development, adding that he sent messages to Augustine via email and WhatsApp. He later confirmed that he had received no response.
After the commissioning of the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman (OFSO) in Scarborough on Friday, Augustine confirmed that he did not respond.
“If I show you my phone now, I will show you over 3000 WhatsApp messages to be cleared, hundreds of emails that my staff and I respond to every day – we tend to keep what’s important to the top.”
He wished Duke the best.
“I have absolutely nothing against Mr Duke. I see him as a colleague of mine, I see him as a member of the Tobago House of Assembly that ought to be respected in such a light.”
But he said his team will not be distracted from their job.
“I am sorry for his significant loss in Port of Spain, I am sorry that Trinidad did not love him the way Roxborough loved him.
“I am noting that he is now preaching the language of humility given that he has been humbled in Port of Spain. All the best to him but at this point, the government of the island has serious issues to treat with. “We can’t be distracted by people and their feelings or people and their indecisiveness and all of that. We have serious challenges to overcome.”
Both men led the PDP team that beat the PNM 14-1 in the 2021 THA election. Augustine became the Chief Secretary and made Duke his deputy. In September 2022, Duke made claims on social media that Augustine had abandoned a team of 27 members of the Roxborough Folk Performing group in New York. After a week-long public spat, Duke resigned as deputy chief secretary.
He also fired Augustine, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson as deputy leaders of the PDP.
In December 2022, after much public speculation, Farley and the entire administration of the THA resigned from the PDP, prompting calls from Duke for fresh elections.
The two had several other public spats since then but in an about-turn after local government elections in Trinidad on August 14, Duke extended an olive branch to Augustine, calling on him to “put the past aside.”
“I want to say part of the way forward is to write a letter, which I did, to Farley, for us to reconcile our differences. Put it aside and put Tobago first,” Duke said.
His call came three weeks after the TPP was launched and referencing the party as “that thing” Duke said there was no way the party could defeat the PNM.
“Tobago wants to see us work together for the common good.”