Tourism Secretary Councillor Tashia Burris – Photo by the THA
THA Secretary of Tourism Tashia Burris said the mass resignations by members of the Executive Council from the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) was them standing up against madness.
Last Monday, along with her colleagues, she announced her resignation from the party effective December 1. The move came approximately three months after THA Chief Secreatary Farley Augustine and the party’s political leader Watson Duke had a public feud, which saw Augustine and two others stripped of their PDP deputy-leader positions and Duke resigning as deputy chief secretary.
Speaking during Full Disclosure with the Executive on Thursday aired on Tobago Updates, responding to calls for fresh elections, Burris said she is convinced Tobagonians voted for the individuals rather than the party, and that Tobagonians still had confidence in the person they voted for in the last election.
“What has happened here is really us exercising our democratic right to say, ‘We cannot align ourselves with madness,’ because it is madness to think that it is okay for you as a political leader to say, ‘I have chosen this person to go forth and represent the party, as the person who would lead the charge…I have chosen this person to lead the team, I have chosen this person …’ and now, because for whatever reason you feel that that person should be beholden to you and your whims and fancies, outside of how governance is legally set up – how could that be right?”
She said a lot of things were happening and people were interested in finding out directly from the members themselves. She said a lot of people were speculating as to how the PDP THA members had got to that point.
“I am happy to have the opportunity to say this was not easy. Coming to this place was not easy. Certainly, I know that I have a particularly meek perspective, having been running mate with Mr Duke back in the 2020 general elections and my own experiences there, and I never told my story, I never really got the opportunity to tell my story then.”
She said having assisted with the two THA election campaigns and seeing what happened in January and December 2021 and now being a secretary and having her own experiences, the time had come to give context for some people who may have questions and concerns.
“Nobody wants to build a house and then literally kind of have to walk away from it.”
She said she hoped people would see “a fuller picture of what happened and then they could now truly understand where we are at and now see how we can move forward in the best interest of the people of Tobago.”
With the expulsion of the three deputy political leaders, she questioned where was the opportunity for the general party to discuss the issue beforehand.
“I, as an ordinary member, didn’t get that opportunity to come and hear what the challenge was so that I can say now, ‘Political leader, now that I understand the situation, maybe you’re right,’ or ‘No, we could solve this inside, take another view, there are ways and means for us to do this thing.’
“You pick up on your own and expel them, which was a shock and surprise to the average member. What is the thing that precipitated that? Was there a series of bad behaviour that led up to the thing?
“So it looks like you took this decision by yourself because you’re emotional, you’re angry, you’re vex.”
She added: “I saw a clip where he said get out my party – what am I supposed to do at that point. It means that you closed the door on any kind of reconciliation, you’ve closed the door on any kind of conversation. You haven’t given the membership any kind of opportunity to come together and say – ok let’s mediate, let’s fix this. If you say for us to come out, it is only so much abuse a person could take and that is what we were subjected to as members. We were abused to the point where we just simply had to say – sir, if this is what you’re on … I didn’t vote for an autocracy, I didn’t vote for a one-man party, I didn’t vote for that.”
She said there is now a call “in unison” for fresh THA elections and a fresh mandate, which she felt demonstrated that people didn’t understand the mind of the crafters of the THA Act.
“When we have the conversation about autonomy, people don’t understand how much latitude we have in the current make-up of the THA.
“In other words, the THA is not beholden to political parties, which is what obtains, and this is the culture that we have come to accept and understand.
“I think…the crafters of the Act were very, very wise in terms of ensuring that the whole idea of even a puppet leader should not happen.
“If you look at the posturing of Mr Duke and Dr Nedd (PDP chairman) and these people, they are almost essentially saying that the executive council should be accounting to a party executive – which in my view…is treasonous.”