All things equal, it seems as though the fates of both Farley Augustine and Watson Duke on the Tobago House of Assembly Executive Council may be decided today, when the members meet in what is expected to be a tense meeting.
The 13 members of the council, Farley included, are finally hoping to hear from Duke in person on what has prompted his recent attacks against Farley and the council, and whether he will move a vote of no confidence in Augustine.
If we are to read the signs being laid down by Mr Duke since the public spat that led to this situation developed, it would seem this is Duke’s ultimate plan, he having already removed Augustine as a Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader.
However, from what Mr Augustine telegraphed yesterday, it would seem Executive Council members are ready to call Mr Duke’s bluff. Augustine has now dared Duke to bring a no-confidence motion in him, countering, however, that if Duke were to lose such a motion, he, in turn, must make his departure from the THA.
This is because the THA is insulated from the machinations of the PDP, so what Mr Duke has done to Augustine within his party holds no sway within the Executive Council. What that means is Duke could also find himself a lone wolf if the other council members do not support him and could also find himself facing a similar motion.
Yesterday, Augustine also reiterated a previous intention to review Duke’s Assistant THA Secretary portfolio with a view to stripping him of the majority of responsibly he (Duke) now has. Augustine, as Chief Secretary, can do so without needing the support of any of the other Assemblymen.
And of course, while citizens are looking on at this impending implosion of the PDP, it all seems the event that led to this—a group of Tobagonians in distress in New York—was a complete red herring.
As we stand now, the Roxborough Folk Performers, headed by former minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, must also clear up a grey area within the story. That is to say the group seemingly left here for a tour of New York without the financial where-with-all to do so—no confirmed accommodation or per diem on which to survive—hence their call, via Duke, for help. However, from all accounts, Duke sought to get the THA to send money via wire transfers and without going through the regular administrative protocol for such activity. Also, it is now clear that the THA offered, and the folk group agreed prior to its departure, only to fund their airline tickets to the tune of $300,000, but then had to fork out a further $100,000 when the group found itself without boarding or food and Duke made his call.
Even more disconcerting has been how Duke has attacked Augustine and by extension the THA, of which he is a part, as the incident played out, suggesting this matter is the back end of something long festering.
What has transpired since last week has certainly brought consternation to the thousands of people who voted for the PDP in last December’s election hoping for a change in governance. Hopefully, Mr Augustine and the THA Executive Council will get it right for the good of all Tobago.