Duke knocks THA over unemployment as review pending

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PDP political leader Watson Duke, left, takes a broom from an Argyle resident during a walkabout ahead of the last THA elections. FILE PHOTO –

FROM “leh we fix dis” to “time to fix dis,” Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke on Monday said the PDP-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is not fulfing its mandate when it comes to creating employment.

Duke’s comments came four days after THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine promised to make a statement on Duke’s future role as Deputy Chief Secretary.

At the post Executive Council media briefing last Thursday, Augustine said he would be reviewing Duke’s responsibilities and a decision would have been announced, via a media release, over the weekend.

On that occasion, he accused Duke of shirking several of his responsibilities as Deputy Chief Secretary.

Augustine also said Duke may be relieved of his responsibilities altogether.

However, Augustine has failed to address the issue in the time period he specified.

Unlike Augustine, Duke has gone on the offensive and stripped him of his PDP deputy position.

Augustine’s review of the Deputy Chief Secretary’s functions came in the wake of Duke’s claim that the THA had abandoned some 27 members of the Roxborough Folk Performers who had gone to New York to perform at several events during Labour Day celebrations.

Augustine said the assembly did not send the group to New York and was merely part-sponsor for the trip.

He said a promissory note was issued to a travel agency for the flights because of the tight deadline. He said the THA gave $400,417.50 in financial support to the group to cover airline tickets.

On Monday, Duke insisted the THA had turned its backs on Tobagonians

In a post on his Facebook page on Monday, Duke said nine months ago the PDP campaigned on creating jobs and employment opportunities for the youths.

He said this promise is yet to be fulfilled.

“Today, nine months later occupying the THA executive, the youths are asking for jobs/employment and opportunities,” he said.

Duke claimed he has not heard of any plan from Augustine for creating jobs.

“What is the plan of the ‘One Boss, One Chief Secretary and One Team?’ I have not heard of anything. Have you heard the plan?”

He said “without a vision, a people perish.

“It is time to stop the grab for power and put people before politics.”

In a video attached to the post, two men at a fish stall are heard complaining that the PDP was no different from the PNM.

A man warned that if youths do not have jobs, they are likely to get into criminal activities.

“When we come out to hustle and we have money and dem doh have none, they go rob we and kill we,” he said.

Maraj: Don’t squander your chance

Political commentator Ralph Maraj described the power struggle between Duke and Augustine as “utterly tragic.”

“Is the party (PDP) now not weakened because of this? And after such an overwhelming mandate from the people of Tobago?” he said.

Maraj told Newsday, Duke erred in publicly criticising the THA of which he is a part.

He also believes that Augustine should not have publicly threatened to review Duke’s role as Deputy Chief Secretary.

Maraj also addressed Duke’s firing on his PDP deputies.

“It is all rather puerile. But very sad.”

The former government minister said Augustine, on assuming office, made a good impression on him as chief secretary.

“He demonstrated great promise as a politician for the entire nation. But as I always maintain wisdom and maturity are needed for success in politics.”

He said democracy requires strong political parties, and an electorate must always have strong, credible alternatives to any ruling party.

“The PDP leaders should not squander the chances of the party that seemed to have a bright future in the politics of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Duke ‘playing his hand’

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath does not believe the PDP, at this stage, is imploding.

He said Duke is simply “playing his hand” to show that he is still the party’s maximum leader despite Augustine being chief secretary.

“But in saying that he is maximum leader, Duke has to also realise that maximum leaders only remain maximum leaders as long as the population are willing to give them their support,” Ragoonath said.

“He could be maximum leader of the PDP but if the citizens and the electors in Tobago do not see these decisions that the party is making is in the best interest of Tobago, then they are going to start asking questions and Duke and the party executive are going to find themselves in some degree of hot water with the electorate.”

He said the electorate will have to “put Duke in a corner” and explain to him that he could be maximum leader of the PDP but not necessarily maximum leader of Tobago.

“That is going to be the real issue.”

Recalling that Duke had anointed Augustine as the PDP’s choice for chief secretary long before the THA election, Ragoonath said Duke should accept that Augustine has the power to review his performance.

But Ragoonath, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, UWI, St Augustine, also wondered how Tobagonians viewed both men as individuals.

For instance, he said, they may very well see Augustine as being an ingrate because Duke gave him the office or conversely, that he is the more level-headed choice to hold the position of chief secretary.

“If that is the case, then Duke is left hanging in the air.”

Ragoonath said Tobagonians may very well be caught between a rock and a hard place in deciding between the work of the THA, under Augustine’s leadership, as against being loyal to the PDP.