He is one of three deputy political leaders in the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and the party’s candidate for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside. He won the seat in 2017 and is seeking a second term.
Farley Augustine is the party’s choice for Chief Secretary if the PDP wins the Tobago House of Assembly elections on January 25, 2021.
Farley, as he is called by almost all Tobagonians, examines the most important issues facing Tobago and how the PDP will address them.
Q. What is the most pressing problem facing Tobago, and how will your party address it?
A. The most pressing problem facing Tobago is the issue with the mismanagement of our resources. When we analyse what has happened over the past 20 years, one can easily ascertain that we have not managed our resources as well as we have, not always gotten value for money. We have missed many opportunities to have a development trajectory that is far more advanced than the one that we have had and as a result, we have several categories of Tobagonians who just have not benefited from the Tobago House of Assembly. We will put structures in place so that we could treat the issues of accountability, managing our resources, and create equity in terms of opportunities for all Tobagonians.
The burning issue discussed on the PDP’s platform was that of the rope the Auditor General discovered when the department went in search of the $2.5 million spent on the zip line project which began over five years ago. You subsequently said the project’s Executive Council note indicated almost $4 million was spent. Have you sent the documents, as promised, to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Police Commissioner and Auditor General?
Yes, I have forwarded documents to the relevant people. We had to as Prime Minister Dr Rowley hammers the People’s Partnership on matters of corruption. He cannot now come to Tobago and try to make Tobagonians feel corruption is not an issue. All United Nations studies show that corruption bears a high opportunity cost when it comes to an island’s developing state like ours.
Are you satisfied with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s explanation that Tracy Davidson-Celestine left Tobago in 2017 when the zip line project was in its “infancy” and cannot be held responsible for the project?
It broke my heart when I heard the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley. He campaigned against his former leader, the late Patrick Manning on corruption issues. Now he is defending the zip line project by Ms Davidson-Celestine. The PM said Ms Davidson- Celestine had left soon after the project began and tried to water down the gravity of the situation. This zip line project is one of many. It is symptomatic of the People’s National Movement’s mismanagement of funds on the island. We paid all of the money for the project by 2015. They remained the same administration in power, so how can you try to water down that situation.
If the party was given the kinds of resources the People’s National Movement was given over the years, what would the PDP have done differently?
We would have used the over $40 billion given to the THA over the years, differently. We would have significantly reduced the recurrent expenditure budget and we would have also had a larger capital development budget. The city of Scarborough would have been more developed. We would have addressed daily-rated workers getting their salaries and back pay on time, monthly-paid workers and retirees getting their gratuities on time, and there would have been more tangible development for the island of Tobago.
What are the party’s most important plans?
Firstly, we intend to put systems in place to manage Tobago resources well. Secondly, the redevelopment of Scarborough into a city allows for a construction boom and economic activity, permanent employment. It ties into us giving technical vocation the importance it deserves as we train our young people as we allow them to use their skills and increase their capacity.
Why has the PDP not produced a written manifesto for the THA elections as yet? Is it not usual to present the party’s plans so that they can be examined and critiqued?
We do have a written manifesto. However, we have gone the non-traditional route in terms of how we release our mandate. We have released it in capsules in a television and social media programme called ‘PDP Prime Time Special’ and it was interactive as we allowed people to call in. We did it like that as we discovered that people do not go through manifestos in detail.
Allegations of mismanagement of the Public Services Association’s funds have been levelled against your leader, Watson Duke, but you remained under his leadership. How are we to believe that you are genuinely concerned about corruption if you remain in the party?
What we have gotten so far is allegations levelled against Mr Watson Duke, but we have not seen any evidence…We not running on allegations against Ms Davidson-Celestine, we are running on evidence. Once we have documentary evidence against Mr Duke, the party will act. I have, in the past, spoken out publicly against Mr Duke’s actions, apologised on behalf of the party, and refusing to recant that apology when Mr Duke was upset that I had apologised.
Are you concerned that an association with Duke will destroy your reputation and eventually the party’s image?
I am not concerned as my reputation has been to walk the straight and narrow, speak out against wrongdoing, even if it’s Mr Duke. That will continue to be my reputation whether I am in politics or out of politics.
One of the accusations the PNM has levelled against you is that you have not represented your constituents well. How do respond to that?
That is completely untrue. As a minority assemblyman, I have perhaps represented my district and been the strongest advocate for my district and gone to the extent of dipping my hands in my pockets and taking small loans to assist members of my district. Several of the things I advocated for were ignored and the PNM gave me zero resources to work with. I made several sacrifices as I am interested in my constituents.
What have you done for your constituents over the past four years to warrant another term?
Over the last four years, I have built the capacity of many communities-based organisations—sports, religious, generic groups. Those groups helped me in alleviating some of the social ills such as substance abuse. I also created alternative platforms for young people through sports, addressed literacy issues, reactivated the PTA, been a staunch advocate of preserving the environment, and worked on preserving families.
The Charlotteville Police Station was awarded as the district with the lowest crime rate in the nation. That did not happen by chance. It’s because we have created strong partnerships between the police service and these social groups. Also, I have even built a comfortable house for a lady who fell through her house. We got the community, the Unemployment Relief Fund, and others to help. And if there is an issue in my area, like a fire, I am there before the fire services and social workers. I make sure those constituents have a place to stay and food long before any other THA department helps.
You are hoping to win your seat, but, if you don’t, will you continue representing your constituents? If so, how do you plan to do it?
I helped before becoming an area representative. That is why people voted for me. When I became an area representative, I was able to do it ten times more. Before that, I worked with the community—motivating students to do their best, going to every wake, fisherman fete etc. That has been my life, and I will continue doing what I have been doing. I live in the area and will continue to assist in its development.
If the PDP loses the elections, what is the party’s next move?
I will have to take responsibility for that loss and I will have to allow the party to recalibrate itself with or without me being the leader of the team for the THA elections. We will continue fighting for Tobagonians and service them.
If the party wins, what are the plans for the first 100 days?
In the first 100 days, we will supply the Cabinet with the financial rules and regulations to guide and manage THA accounts. We will also have a formal meeting with the Prime Minister about autonomy and we will begin to open up e-government services, and the public will have greater access to and a greater say in governing Tobago. We will set up a system for the public to petition the Assembly to debate specific matters and act on them and hold the THA to the highest procurement standards.