Senior Political Reporter
Tobago economist Dr Vanus James, who once campaigned for the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, is now campaigning for a new governance system in the THA.
And if that means campaigning against them, “so be it,” James said yesterday.
Speaking with Guardian Media, James pointed out that he’d never been a member of any party but once vigorously campaigned for the PDP and advised them. Now he’s slamming both the Augustine-led THA and PDP leader Watson Duke, whose chances to return to governance on the island, he said, are over.
Speaking as a concerned Tobagonian who wants the best for the island and country, James took issue with the controversial voice note recently leaked on social media, in which individuals discussed hiring persons under the THA to allegedly spread propaganda on behalf of the new Tobago People’s Party.
Augustine and his executive have failed to address the matter publicly since it was put into the public domain three weeks ago, although it has caused a firestorm in Tobago and nationally.
Frowning on the THA leaders’ longstanding silence on the issue, James said, “The situation is straightforward. There are two people in Tobago who knows if it’s an authentic voice note: Farley and Education Secretary Zorisha Hackette.
“Since they know and are such important THA members, they ought to tell Tobagonians if it’s authentic or not, they ought to explain and say what they’re trying to do as far as they know. As the law provides, they can be guilty with explanations. This complete silence is costing them the last vestiges of their credibility.”
But James said he wasn’t among those who want an immediate THA election, since Tobago must instead first fight for a changed system of governance to prevent good people entering the system from becoming “devils” later.
“We need a system to allow Tobagonians to supervise their government properly and prevent anyone else whom they put in power to behave this way.”
James added that autonomy is a big part of the process, as it’s required for Tobago to make laws (which it currently can’t do) and especially for non-executive members to regulate the Executive Council’s behaviour.
”We need to move in this direction before any THA election to allow things to operate better,” James said, adding he’s campaigning actively to change the system towards improvements and remove what obtains in THA now.
On if he’ll support the PDP or Augustine in the next election, James said the Augustine administration has lost credibility and he didn’t think there’s any comeback for them, especially since they had demonstrated “a lot of incompetence.”
He also felt there’s no chance of Duke returning as a political force in Tobago.
“He’s lost his … political direction,” James added.
James said there was no going back to the PNM, however, as Tobagonians couldn’t support a party that wasn’t open to democratic structures for people to practice fully in the party and wasn’t willing to change Tobago’s governance system to allow decision-making in the way required.
“People will go nowhere returning to PNM or staying with Farley and company,” James said.
Saying he’s campaigned all his life for a Tobago party genuinely interested in building for growth, James added that it’s time for Tobagonians to move on and do that now and for serious steps towards progress on that, “Both in Trinidad, as well as Tobago.”
Saying he talks to people continuously on changing the system, James said, “That’s first and foremost—changing it so no one else will behave the way they’re behaving. And if they’re the target of my campaign – so be it.”