‘I’ve been called an independent too long’ – THA secretary on new party

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, front right, and Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael, front left, with other assemblymen and executive members at a special sitting of the assembly last year. FILE PHOTO –

THA Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin says she is excited about next week’s launch of a new political party in Tobago, mainly because “I have been called an independent for too long.”

Almost four months after declaring themselves independents, members of the Farley Augustine-led THA administration are set to launch a new party on April 4 at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex from 5-8pm, a post on Facebook said on Monday.

The news came 12 days after THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris urged Augustine to form a new party so that Tobagonians could go back to the polls.

On Tuesday, Charles-Pantin confirmed the party will be launched next week.

“It is about time,” she told reporters during a break at the Institute of Marine Affairs’ Eighth Community Research Symposium at Shaw Park.

“People want to know that we are under a party, a party symbol, a party name.

“All this will be launched on April 4. So everybody will be informed.

“I am fully on board with anything Tobago. I am Tobago-centric.”

Charles-Pantin is also excited about working with her colleagues as a party.

“And I think we, as Tobagonians, should be excited about a Tobago party being launched. So let’s all join in on the excitement, because this is about building Tobago.”

Asked if she has her sights set on any particular position, she laughed before saying, “I am the secretary of one of the largest divisions in Tobago. I am an assemblyman. I have been on the ground all the time. What other position you think I should hold?”

Charles-Pantin did not reveal the name and colour of the new party.

“You all don’t like excitement? I love excitement. I like birthday parties. I like to throw parties for people and see their excitement.

“You will know what the name is. People woke me up this morning trying to ask me about the name, saying they were seeing these things circulating on Facebook and I told them that is propaganda. That is all part of politics.”

She said Tobagonians will be proud of the new party.

PNM leader: Obscene and insulting

Weighing in on the impending launch, PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis predicted that the new party would no different from what currently obtains.

“Having stuttered and muttered along at the expense of Tobagonians, this chaotic and infantile Farley-led THA administration is now embarking on a name and colour change.

“They can change their colour to white even but the issue is their general arrogance, dishonesty and unpreparedness for leadership, a leopard never changes its spots,” he said in a post on his Facebook page.

Dennis added the formation of a new party less than halfway through the group’s term with an overwhelming mandate was “possibly the most obscene and insulting of all their indiscretions.

“It has far more serious consequences for our democracy than even the embarrassing cancellation of the last THA sitting or the rank victimisation and injustice meted out to fellow Tobagonians or even the collapse of their own PDP administration within one year.”

He said the PNM was preparing to return order and respectability to the governance of Tobago.

“We are learning from past mistakes and we are making the necessary adjustments to be better than we were before. Tobago will soon have an opportunity to end this charade in favour of a resurgent and renewed PNM.”

Chamber head: It’s interesting

Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George described the launch as an “interesting new development.”

But, he said, “The fact…remains that these are persons who campaigned on a PDP platform and got into office on that regard based upon the principles, philosophies, promise, manifesto that would have been laid out by the PDP,” he said in a WhatsApp voicenote.

“Now that they have broken ranks and have declared themselves ‘independent,’ they are now going to launch their own political party, and one wonders what will be the philosophy, the manifesto, the guiding principles, the things to which the public can hold them in that regard as a party.

“It makes it doubly difficult, because they never campaigned on this platform, under this new banner at all.”

George said while the public seems to accept that the “independents” have continued in office, “there still remains a moral imperative and an ethical scenario to consider in terms of the principles of what you would have put forth for the public.”

But he said from a legal, constitutional and even legislative perspective, in terms of the THA Act as it is presently constituted, there didn’t appear to be anything legally wrong with such a move.

The PDP won a landslide 14-1 victory over the PNM in the December 6, 2021, THA election. But eight months into its tenure the party’s leader, Watson Duke, criticised the administration for not rescuing a Roxborough cultural group stranded in New York.

Duke later removed Augustine, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson as deputy party leaders. He also resigned as deputy chief secretary. BYisrael replaced him.

Augustine and the other members of the THA executive resigned from the PDP on December 5, 2022 and declared themselves independents.