THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has categorically denied that the members of his administration are set to launch a new political party next week.
He said instead, “There is a team of supporters who are planning everything 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.”
He believes a new party is needed.
Augustine was speaking with Newsday after Thursday’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day celebrations.
Almost four months after the former PDP members declared themselves "independents" in the THA, a Facebook post last Monday, with a picture of Augustine, said the launch would take place on April 4 at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.
THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has previously urged Augustine to form a new party so that Tobagonians could go back to the polls.
Augustine added: “What I believe the team is doing is that next Tuesday, they are starting that process, launching out on that process.
"In fact, they seem to flip the script on its head, so to speak, in that they are aiming to bring like minds together to discuss everything from symbol to name so people would actually have a say in all of those things.”
He said he had told the supporters who have come together to pull this off that he had no desire to launch a party or even a symbol in his name.
“Once bitten, twice shy, and I think that in Tobago’s political experience, we’ve had way too many instances where a single individual owns the political entity and then controls it. The entire executive – and that includes assistant secretaries and all members of the House on our side – we have literally left everything into the hands of some supporters, who are the ones organising everything.”
Asked about a possible name and symbol for the new party, he said: “I am told that they would present us with options, and all the people that’s there will have an opportunity to vote, and possibly even give the public an opportunity to decide on that, because they’re trying to do a very bottom-up approach as opposed to a top-down approach. I think that would lead to the most democratic political organisation in the country.”
Asked whether he would be vying for a post on this new executive, he said,
“I don’t think there would be elections on Tuesday, but I have been asked to lead in the interim while they sort this out.”
He added: “It’s not an overnight process – they are launching that process on Tuesday.”
He believes now is the right time to form a new political party.
“If now is not the right time, when will it be? Should we wait until there is an election on the horizon and then form a political party just to fight an election, as opposed to have the people form a political organisation and have it take its time, grow, build, develop over the years and be in a better position to fight the election?
"Those who say now is not the best time are really our political enemies, who were perhaps hoping that the people will wait until the very last minute to form a political entity, as opposed to planning ahead of time.”
In the December 2021 THA election, the PDP won a landslide 14-1 victory over the PNM. But eight months into its tenure the party's leader, Watson Duke, accused the administration of failing to help a Roxborough cultural group who had gone to New York to perform and were left without funds.
Duke later removed Augustine, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael and Alicia Roberts-Patterson as deputy leaders of the party.
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.