Duke reaffirms PDP control – axes deputies

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PDP political leader Watson Duke with a PDP flag during a walkabout in Roxborough/Argyle during the last THA election. –

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke on Thursday invoked the PDP constitution to fire the party’s three deputy leaders – THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, Secretary of Health Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson.

The decision came on the day Augustine expressed disappointment at Duke’s handling of his portfolio as Deputy Chief Secretary and vowed to review Duke’s responsibilities.

Duke had publicly chastised the Tobago House of Assembly, in which his party holds a 14-1 majority, for its treatment of 27 members of the Roxborough Folk Performers in New York. Duke claimed the THA did not provide them with funding, and the performers were left to sleep on the streets hungry, and even in a basement with dead rats.

Augustine’s comments were not well received by Duke, who told Augustine on Thursday that he would not let a “political virgin” threaten him.

Less than 24 hours later, Duke invoked part 27.14 of the PDP constitution, which says: “The political leader may from time to time appoint up to three members of the party ‘in good standing’ to be deputy leader.”

It appears that Augustine, BYisrael and Roberts-Patterson are no longer in “good standing” with Duke.

The constitution further says a deputy leader “shall carry out such duties as the political leader shall assign to him.”

In a show of support at Augustine’s press conference at Shaw Park on Thursday, all the PDP THA secretaries apart from Duke were present.

Duke’s rift with Augustine might have had serious implications for his position within his own party had he not acted expeditiously.

Part 32.17-32.18 of the PDP constitution says: “A motion of no confidence in the political leader may be proposed before the National Executive Council. In order for it to pass, no less than two-thirds members of the National Executive Council shall vote in favour of the motion.”

The National Executive Council comprises the political leader, the three deputies, the party chair, the general secretary, treasurer, finance officer, members and mobilisation officer, the elections officer and PRO.

If Duke felt threatened by Augustine’s influence within the THA, the latter’s removal as deputy may have reaffirmed Duke’s control of the PDP, as the removed deputies are now ordinary party members.

A recourse available to the trio may lie in Part 37 of the constitution, which deals with dispute resolution and allows members to challenge the interpretation of any article of the constitution.