Not too long ago, the Progressive Democratic Patriots, led by former PSA leader Watson Duke and with political newcomer Farley Augustine at his side, promised a new style of politics for Tobago.
When the political party was established in 2016 by Duke, who had already gained notoriety as a trade union leader for his at times outlandish antics, many laughed at the prospect while others questioned whether it would be able to survive the test of time.
Despite this early tribulation, in 2017, Duke and Augustine gained two seats and formed the Minority bench in the Tobago House of Assembly. Three short years later, the PDP managed to disrupt the People’s National Movement’s dominance in Tobago and was part of the unprecedented six-six tie that saw a political deadlock on the island for the first time in its history.
Months later, the PDP defeated the PNM in a landslide victory and gained control of the THA.
Despite being the political leader of the PDP, Duke stepped aside, allowing Augustine to be THA Chief Secretary while he accepted the role as deputy Chief Secretary. Some, however, felt Duke’s decision to not only make Augustine the face of the campaign but also the Chief Secretary may have been a strategic move, given his continuing legal issues—the determination of which may yet affect Duke’s future.
Still, when the PDP unseated the PNM, Tobagonians were hopeful the island’s political landscape was heading in a new, vibrant and progressive direction, as a new type of inclusive and people-centred type of politics promised by the PDP appeared to be emerging.
Now, less than a year since the PDP has been in office, there has been a major fracture in the relationship between Duke and Augustine. So deep is the bust-up between the two that Duke has axed Augustine as deputy political leader, hours after the Chief Secretary promised to review Duke’s roles and responsibilities as deputy Chief Secretary.
The genesis of the fragmentation is said to be a lack of financial assistance provided to a group of folk performances who ran into difficulty while on a tour in New York.
But as the saying goes, there may be more in the mortar than the pestle when it comes to the public spat between the two.
Whatever the reasons for the growing acrimony, the people of Tobago are looking on with great anxiety as a political party they voted overwhelmingly for to take charge of their affairs, could very well be on the verge of collapse.
The situation could implode further if Augustine exercises his authority under the THA Act to revoke appointments and remove Duke from his deputy Chief Secretary post.
There has also been talk by political analysts that any considerable shake-up in the composition of the ruling PDP could snowball and lead to another trek to the polls for Tobagonians.
But all of this could be avoided if Duke and his once right-hand man Augustine sit and have a face-to-face discussion about the issues and reach an amicable resolution, especially for the sake of Tobago.
The two men came into office with the slogan “Let we fix it.” It surely is time they take their own advice.