Tsoiafatt Angus: New York trip at centre of PDP spat remains ‘a mystery’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus

INNOVATIVE Democratic Alliance (IDA) political leader Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus has described as “a mystery” the details of the Roxborough Folk Performers’ recent visit to New York.

Last Wednesday, Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDP) political leader Watson Duke, in a post on his Facebook page, chastised the THA for abandoning 27 members of the group who had gone to New York to perform at Labor Day celebrations.

The group returned to Tobago on Monday.

Duke said apart from airline tickets, the THA did not provide funding to the group to cover other expenses. As a result, he claimed members were stranded, stressed out and hungry.

Augustine said the THA did not send the group to New York but provided financial assistance to the tune of $400,417.50 to cover airfare and some expenses.

Saying the assembly could not provide further assistance, Augustine said Duke was aware of its constraints.

The issue led to a power struggle between the two men, which persists.

Last Thursday, Duke fired Augustine, Dr Faith BYisrael (Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection) and Alicia Roberts-Patterson as PDP deputy leaders.

He has also criticised the THA for not fulfilling one of its campaign promises of creating employment.

Speaking on the Tobago Updates morning show, Tsoifatt Angus said getting proper details of what happened has been challenging.

“I think what we have a challenge with is that we do not have details of what happened, because the group, I read, is saying they have not received any money at all. So if they have not received any money at all, then the assembly can’t put forward more money if they (the group) have not received any money at all,” she said.

“So whether it is that the chief secretary’s promise is based on knowing that the money did not yet reach them, and therefore, those monies that were already approved as part of the sponsorship would cover that amount, really, I hesitate to comment, because we do not have the details.”

She added, “It is a mystery, I would like to say at this point. All of the details are missing, whether they were hungry, not hungry, staying, not staying, receive money, not receive money. There is just a whole lot that we don’t know about this and I look forward to hearing the full story and be(ing able to figure out what exactly happened. You are getting all types of voicemails and you really don’t know what is taking place.”

Tsoiafatt Angus, who served as secretary of culture in the former Orville London-led PNM administration – before striking out on her own by forming the IDA – said the assembly has policies in place for requests for funding.

“Even though the group was not representing the THA, the administration would have had policies in place in terms of sponsorship. And in giving sponsorship, you would want to ensure that whatever the endeavour persons are asking you about can lead to some measure of success.”

She said if a request was made for plane tickets, the assembly had the right to ask the group how it was going to support the rest of the venture in relation to hotel bills, food and other expenses.

“Many of the organisations that came to us back then would have done their fundraisers and would have been able to show that they had resources and that they just needed a little extra to be able to get them to complete their budget in order to be successful.”

Tsoiafatt Angus said the assembly, under the London administration, had a grant committee that was not based on the “will of the secretary.”

“You had people in the committee who would evaluate the forms that would come in, and then they would call the organisation for additional information to ensure the venture for which THA funding was requested would be a success.”

She also described as “unfortunate” the public feud between Duke and Augustine, saying it has become a distraction when the focus should be on Tobago’s governance.