Duke: Tobago's autonomy is not enough

Former Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke
Former Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke

Tobagonians are not seeking autonomy; they are seeking self-determination.

Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke made the statement on Monday during a media conference at the PDP headquarters in Scarborough.

Duke said: “Tobagonians are not seeking autonomy, we are not seeking more rights; what Tobagonians are seeking is self-determination.”

Self-determination, he said, is a cardinal principle rooted in international law.

“It is not something that is by the way. It is well-rooted in international law. It is also a part of the international law that can be found in the United Nations. It is also part of law of civil and political rights. It says the people have a right.

"Our peoples have been held in subjugation to a colonial power. Those persons (Tobagonians) have the right to self-determine among themselves their political status, which means they have a right to determine among themselves, for themselves, if they want to be an independent nation, if they want to be an integration with another nation.”

He added: “We have not been hearing that at all from this assembly, nor from former assemblies. They are taking it for granted that Tobago wants to be part of a relationship with Trinidad for life. That is not the case. While we enjoy the relationship of Trinidad and Tobago, there are times when the relationship is oppressive, and the relationship does not work.”

He said with the electoral framework of Trinidad and Tobago, with 39 seats in Trinidad and only two in Tobago, Tobago cannot exert the right to self-determination in Central Government.

“So we never, ever, ever exhibited the right towards self-determination."

Tobago wants the same rights, he said.

“We must be able to borrow as much as we can borrow based on our ability to pay back. That must be the right that we’re pursuing, and that right can only be pursued with a self-determination bill where the amendment to the Constitution that gives Tobago the right to self-determination.”

He said the economic development for Tobago has been stymied and stunted as the PNM-led Central Government always determines what is best for Tobago.

He said now is the time when the decision should be made absolutely clear.

“We cannot just give to PNM Trinidad our freedom – we don’t want that, we want all of our rights. Let the people of Tobago determine if we want to continue with the Trinidad and Tobago, let us determine that or let us determine whether we want an association with Trinidad, or let us determine if we want an independent country but now is the time for us to make it absolutely clear.”

He said Tobago's right to self-determination must be expressly stated in the Constitution.

He added that the current Farley-led THA is weak and cannot negotiate in Tobago's interest.

“The THA has never been this weak since its reincarnation, and anybody who is in a weak position is in no position to negotiate. When you are weak, you are in no position to negotiate but rather, you’re in a submissive position to take instructions, bend your back and let another person ride your back.

"I want to tell the THA that you need to straighten up, in particular the chief secretary – you need to straighten up yourself and position yourself to represent the people of Tobago.”

He added: “That (current autonomy) bill that goes into the Constitution is taking away all our rights and giving us limited rights. No matter how much money, seven per cent, ten per cent – we don’t want that. We must determine our economic trajectory and determine the amount of finances we want to take us to that level.”


"Duke: Tobago’s autonomy is not enough"

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