Tobago stakeholders await launch of new political entity

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine speaks during an interview with Newsday last year. – Photo courtesy THA

TOBAGO’S political landscape is likely to change on Tuesday when supporters of the Farley Augustine-led THA executive meet at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex to launch what is being called a new political organisation on the island.

But it is unclear as to whether a political organisation or a political party will, in fact, be launched.

A Facebook post on Monday said Augustine and his team will launch a new political party at the complex on April 4 from 5-8pm.

Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin confirmed the post in an interview with reporters on Tuesday.

But Augustine has denied this was the case, saying instead that a political organisation was being launched.

During Spiritual Shouter Baptist celebrations on March 30 in Tobago, Augustine claimed a team of supporters was planning the event from the ground up “so that there would be a political organisation that will hopefully encompass all of the independents and take care of the base’s support but also build out a true people’s party.”

Augustine added the ‘independents’ have literally left everything in the hands of its supporters.

He said the team of “like minds” is expected to discuss a name for the party and a symbol “and the people will have a say.”

Admitting that a new political party is needed, Augustine said he has been asked to be the interim leader “while they sort out the process.”

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said he was not surprised by the announcement of a new political party in Tobago after Augustine and members of his executive severed ties with the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) on December 5, 2022.“I saw it coming. It was only to be expected that having resigned from the PDP they were going to form a new party,” he said.

But Ragoonath told Sunday Newsday it is way too soon to make any pronouncements on how such an entity would fare.

“What I will say at this point in time is that the PDP has found itself at a very low point and therefore I am not sure of the PDP’s ability to recoup and be the second main party on the island. Bear in mind that all of the other parties have virtually disintegrated. So it’s been basically the PDP and the PNM.”

He continued, “Now, we can expect a third party. So I am not sure whether the PDP will be the second party or whether this new party will be the second party on the island in a two-party system and the PDP will be just like one of those small parties like we have in Trinidad existing, which existed in Tobago before in the various other small parties.”

Ragoonath believes when the new entity is formed it will try to win the support of Tobagonians ahead of the next THA election, constitutionally due in 2025.

“It will try to present itself as an alternative to the PNM.”

He does not foresee an early election

“I don’t expect that the sitting members of the new party, whatever it will be named, I don’t see them withdrawing from the assembly at this point in time.

“I expect that they will run out their term. There might be disagreements but I don’t expect any major issues at this point.”

Former Tobago Chamber of Commerce president Diane Hadad is adopting a wait-and-see approach to Tuesday’s launch.

“I am waiting with bated breath for whatever is to come because the island has been very much in shambles and in uncertainty and it continues to have a lot of question marks around the direction that we are supposed to be going,” she said.

“And therefore, it stands to reason that at the end of all of it, whatever they are coming with needs to say something serious about the future of the island’s political environment, particularly under their leadership.”

Currently, Hadad said, there doesn’t appear to be “any clear direction or directive” for moving Tobago forward.

“Therefore, the island’s business is in jeopardy.”

New Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Alpha Lorde is also keeping an open mind.

He said, “As one of the latest associations in Tobago representing business interests and the hotel/tourism sector, we will remain apolitical and work with whoever is in authority in the furtherance of the industry. Our intention is to work with whoever is there to support the industry’s growth.”

Emerging out of covid19, Lorde said, “We want to get back to where we were as quickly as possible and even beyond that. So our focus is really that the industry develops and we will be in support of who is there.”

THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris regarded the upcoming launch as a last-ditch attempt by the Augustine administration to “form a political party to keep this sinking ship of runaway independent assemblymen on-board and afloat.

“From the day of inauguration to now, this administration’s tenure is one characterised by bacchanal, confusion, mistake, misstep and flagrant instability,” he said on Saturday via WhatsApp.

“I am sure Tobagonians by now are growing increasingly weary and frustratingly concerned as to Farley’s inconsistency and untrustworthy character, where he fails to deliver on his assurances and his promises.”

Morris added, “One such promise is that the PDP would not become like the rest of defunct parties opposed the PNM. Where is Farley and the PDP? He has jumped ship.”

He recalled Augustine had also promised to consult Tobagonians before launching any new political organisation.

“Have those consultations been completed? The point one must consider going forward is if Farley is unable to be consistent in his small promises and assurances, can you trust him to lead a party to fulfil big promises and assurances? The answer is a resounding ‘No.’

“Therefore, after seeing over 11 political parties rise and fall in Opposition to the PNM in Tobago, it leaves me to conclude that the PNM is the only stable political organisation with the political gravitas to restore decency and respect in the governance of Tobago.”

Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas said Augustine’s use of the term “political organisation” to describe the launch was bewildering.

“But I shall await the events on Tuesday before commenting further.”

The PDP had an overwhelming 14-one victory over the PNM in the December 6, 2021, THA election.

But eight months into its tenure the party suffered a major blow when its leader Watson Duke accused the administration of failing to financially assist members of a Roxborough cultural group who had gone to New York to perform at an event.

Duke later stripped Augustine, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson of their positions as deputy leaders. He later resigned as Deputy Chief Secretary and was replaced by BYisrael.

Augustine and the other members of the THA executive resigned from the PDP last December and declared themselves independents in the assembly.