Analyst: Duke fighting for political survival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Watson Duke – David Reid

POLITICAL analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath believes the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP’s) political leader Watson Duke’s gesture at reconciliation with Tobago People’s Party (TPP) interim leader Farley Augustine is an attempt to fight for his own political survival.

At a news conference on Monday at the PDP’s headquarters, Port Mall, Scarborough, Duke said he had written to Augustine asking that they put aside their differences and join forces in the interest of Tobago’s development.

He claimed the THA had veered from the PDP’s mantra of putting people first.

After the two fell out last year, Augustine and the other PDP members of the Tobago House of Assembly left the party. They initially declared themselves independents, then formed the TPP.

Duke said the THA has not been able to create sustainable jobs, clear up outstanding debts to contractors and push meaningfully for autonomy.

If Augustine does not respond to his letter, Duke said, he will have no choice but to brand him and the TPP political enemies of the PDP.

In Ragoonath’s view that is already the case. He told Newsday, “When Duke removed Farley as deputy political leader and issued various subtle threats, basically he was deeming them to be political enemies of the PDP.”

He said when the TPP was established, Augustine and the members of the executive accepted the position that they were all in two different dimensions altogether – PDP as opposed to TPP.

“I think that Duke is fighting for his political survival. because the defeat of the PDP in the August 14 local government election clearly shows that the PDP has not been able to gain any momentum in Trinidad.”

Ragoonath suggested the people who supported the PDP in Trinidad’s local government elections were “former PSA (Public Services Association) people who were loyal towards Duke himself.”

Duke, assemblyman for Roxborough/Argyle, is a former PSA president.

“It is in that context that I don’t see Duke as having any real weight in Trinidad. But he knows he has a base in Tobago, particularly so in Roxborough, Tobago East, and he is probably thinking he could mend fences with the TPP (and) at some point in time he could probably gain their support.”

Ragoonath, who regarded Duke as strategic, said one must also bear in mind his vision of becoming Prime Minister.

“To be Prime Minister you have to be a Member of Parliament. So he is probably hoping to mend fences in the hope that he could contest the general election in 2025 for Tobago East, and if he wins, then he will have a seat in Parliament, which brings him closer to his goal.”

But in the meantime, Ragoonath said it is not likely the TPP will embrace him.

“I think there is a lot of bad blood that has flowed, and I am not sure they are ready yet to embrace each other in the way that Duke may believe that it should be done.”