Deputy political leader of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Farley Augustine last night said the party’s resounding victory in the Tobago House of Assembly election stood as a rejection of Tobagonian-born Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Augustine, who was always in PDP gear on the campaign trail, last night said he deliberately wore plain white to toast the victory because the campaign was over and now was the time for the business of running the country.
The PDP is now set to be sworn in on Thursday.
“We wake up tomorrow with new resolve. We wake up tomorrow ready for change. We cannot behave like those we replaced tonight, we have to do better, we are required to do better, the standard is higher for us and it is important that that standard be raised high enough that even our friends and family in Trinidad could look on and begin to envy what we can accomplish on our small democracy,” Augustine said.
“A party of just about five years old was able to do what parties older than us could not do,” he added.
Augustine also called on the Prime Minister to not “penalise” the Tobago people.
“This win should also be a solid message to the Central Government being led by a Tobago-born Prime Minister. You cannot treat Tobagonians the way you want. We will reject that and we have rejected that,” Augustine said.
“Let this win be a strong message that Tobago has rejected your incomplete autonomy bill and we demand more. Let this be a resounding message, a strong message we have rejected your notion that we are only good enough to earn $200 million per year and we must resort to being beggars of the national purse.”
Augustine was referring to a statement during the campaign from Rowley, who told Tobago that it contributed some $200 million to the coffers and salaries alone under the THA was more than that.
Tobago receives over $2 billion in budgetary allocations every year.
“Let this be a strong message, Mr Prime Minister, that we in Tobago have rejected your bullying tactics and that the kind of bullying that is part of the political culture in Trinidad is not welcome in Tobago,” he said.
Despite those strong words, Augustine said he hoped that he and the Prime Minister could have a “cordial relationship.”
“Because country must come before party and country must come before self. I urge you, do not spite Tobago because the Tobagonians I know are mighty enough to also get rid of you,” Augustine said.
“Let that be a warning that you ought to respond to us in a dignified manner and that we are willing to work with you to see this island developed.”
Augustine said the Tobago people would not accept any bias from the Prime Minister.
He also commended the people who came out to vote.
“You have looked at both political parties, the two major parties and you weighed us, you found one wanting and you have decided to invest in the PDP, you decided to give us an opportunity,” he said and promised, on behalf of his colleagues, to not disappoint.
“Tobagonians have been disappointed after 21 years and we don’t need 21 years to fix it but we need to begin post-haste to remedy the problems that we have cited all these years,” he said.
Augustine reinforced the party promises made on the campaign trail and said he would abide by the “covenant” they made to the people.
“We covenanted with you that we will give you a THA that is far more transparent and accountable. We covenant with you that we will have a zero-tolerance approach on corruption. We covenant with you that people would benefit from Tobago’s resources,” Augustine said.
Augustine also took time to “pay tribute” to the party’s leader, Watson Duke.
“Mr Duke is perhaps the biggest dreamer of all of us because to get up and start one day in 2015 into 2016 as an independent candidate and by 2017, to have a party formed around him and by 2021 to push his younger deputy into the line of fire and ask me to lead. That kind of magnanimous gesture should never, ever go unappreciated in Tobago,” he said.
He called on the PDP and its supporters to now “settle down,” as Tobago was depending on them to have a good Christmas and an even better New Year.
“We have had a long and bruising battle but now the battle is over and now is a good time for Tobago to begin to heal and Tobago to begin to transform into the kind of Tobago we can all be proud of,” he said.