Duke: I will not support any coup in the THA

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PDP leader Watson Duke. – File photo

PROGRESSIVE Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke says his party will not support any coup in the Farley Augustine-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

At a news conference on May 9 at the PDP’s head office, Port Mall, Scarborough, Duke alleged there were internal rumblings within the administration which is preventing Augustine from carrying out his planned reshuffle.

A newspaper article on May 8 said Augustine was expected to announce a realignment of his administration at the post executive council media briefing later that day but this did not materialise.

On the Tobago Updates morning show on March 13, 2024, Augustine said a date for the reshuffle had been fixed. He also said then that the secretaries and assistant secretaries were aware of the date of the announcement.

Augustine said he had met with them individually to inform them of the changes.

The Chief Secretary had first indicated that a reshuffle was coming more than a year ago – January 16, 2023 – during a function at the Mai Ridge Forest Reserve Visitor Centre, Parlatuvier.

On May 9, Duke said Augustine is vested with the authority to reshuffle his executive as he sees fit.

“The chief secretary must reshuffle his Cabinet or his executive. There are no two ways about it. You will have to bite the bullet and rearrange your secretaries in a way that represents the growth and development of the Tobago executive that you wish to see,” he said.

“I challenge you Chief Secretary to make the difference by rearranging your executive. It is your executive. Do not let their numbers fool you.”

Duke added, “I, Watson Duke, will not stand and watch foolishness take place and if there is anyone threatening the Chief Secretary that if he moves them they will get up and vote him out. I will not support such a vote and I will work with Tobago to ensure that they don’t support such a vote.

“The Chief Secretary must surrender if he believes he can’t manage Tobago. Or move a motion that election be called. I will support that. But I will not support a coup. I am not of that nature at all. I have never staged a coup and I will not support any coup. And I urge Tobago not to support any coup.”

The Roxborough/Argyle assemblyman claimed there were rumours about a plan to overthrow Augustine.

But Duke reminded Tobagonians, “That’s your choice. He is your chief secretary and my chief secretary. Respect his decisions. The PDP will not be supporting any internal coup where they want to remove the Chief Secretary. I will stand with the Chief Secretary until the Chief Secretary resigns from the office or until there is proper elections.”

He said THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris also should not support such a move.

At the briefing, Duke also said he felt a “burn in his heart” when he learnt recently that Augustine was now taking on the responsibilities that fell under the office of the Deputy Chief Secretary.

“I felt a burn in my heart because I understand fully well that the chief secretary is a very busy person. You can’t get him on the phone. You can’t meet him for a conversation and to understand that he is taking on five more areas of significant interest to Tobago, creates a burning in my heart.”

He added, “Where is he getting the energy to administer foreign direct investments, to administer the diaspora division of the department, to administer the inter-island relationship between Trinidad and Tobago, to evaluate the 11 divisions underneath him and to recommend changes.”