Deputy Chief Sec calls for Tobago’s self-determination

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke. FILE PHOTO/JEFF MAYERS –

THA Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke is calling for self-determination for Tobago.

Duke, the electoral representative for Roxborough/ Argyle, was delivering the feature address during the Caribbean Diaspora Investment Forum’s Invest Tobago town hall meeting at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, on Monday.

He said there is a need for Tobago to be on equal status with Trinidad.

“Tobago is not an equal island with Trinidad. Since 1889, we have never been – and that is a legal issue – we are never equal: we are a ward of Trinidad.”

“The Tobago problem is not Trinidad, because our families exist there. They are our brothers and our sisters. The Tobagonian problem is the PNM.

“We want equal rights and justice. Give us our equal rights and justice with Trinidad.

“Although we are a ward of Trinidad, what that simply means, they take care of us. If we want an ID card, that has to be made in Trinidad. If you want a glasses, that has to be made in Trinidad – anything (imported), it has to come through Trinidad. The flour you eat: it comes through Trinidad. The sugar you eat: it comes through Trinidad.”

He said deep within him, there is a dream for Tobago to be equal.

“I never wanted to be the normal politician, I wanted to be myself I don’t want to be no ANR Robinson, I don’t want to be no Patrick Manning, no Eric Williams, I don’t want to be no Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela – I just wanted to be myself.”

He said in his mind, independence in 1962 and Republic status in 1976 should have elevated Tobago.

“Then again, the PNM was in charge, they don’t care.

“As long as we are one, we can’t plan our budget, we can’t do anything. They have to give us whatever they feel to give us, whenever they feel to give us – that is what they’re going to do.

“But as an island on (an) equal footing, we may just have the right to solicit elsewhere. We may have the right to come up with our own economic plan, our own social development, etc.”

He said as a result Tobago needs self-determination.

“Self-determination is really a cardinal principle rooted in international law. Self-determination really says that the people of Tobago…would sit and could determine for themselves their political status.”

“Whether we want to be fully independent, we have that right– whether we want to be in a relationship: interdependent like Trinidad and Tobago, or whether we want to have an association like the European Union – they are an association; the UN – they are an association. We never had the chance to decide.”

He said all of the diasporas must stand and say to the PNM in Trinidad,“It is time to free our people back home.”

“We are not asking for separation. We are not asking to go alone. We want to be linked to Trinidad, if possible linked to the rest of the Caribbean.

“(But) we must have the right to determine ourselves, our political status. We must have the right to freely develop our economic, our social and cultural development – we must determine that.”

In 2019, Duke said at a press conference it was time to free Tobagonians from “bondage” – not through internal self-governance, but through full independence from Trinidad. He said this separation was not a call for war, but instead for Tobago to have the chance to unlock its ability to grow its economy.