Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine insists he is the best candidate for the position of Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary, saying he understands the value of sacrifice.
Augustine made the comment during a campaign meeting on Thursday night, as he responded to his People’s National Movement critics who sought to disqualify him based on his social standing.
Holding nothing back as he addressed a large crowd of supporters at Canaan, Augustine said a member of PNM slate said he should be disqualified from being Chief Secretary because he (Augustine) “still lives downstairs my parents’ house.” However, Augustine noted that current Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis also has his own dirty linen to address as it relates to living conditions and a well-publicised domestic dispute.
“At present, we have a Chief Secretary who, before becoming Chief Secretary, he wife kick him out, throw out he clothes in a garbage bag, he had to move in back by he mother house again before becoming Chief Secretary,” Augustine said.
He called out Dennis, whom he said claimed home ownership is linked to one’s suitability for the position of Chief Secretary.
“Where is your house … the government house in Plymouth that should be going to poor people who they have been giving away based on nepotism and a friend list ….”
In his best Tobago dialect Augustine said, “He nuh own no house, so therefore if he could be Chief Sec I could be Chief Sec too!”
Augustine went onto explain that as Chief Secretary, he would ensure that Tobago becomes a place where there “is equal opportunity for everyone.”
He said the reason he currently lives in his parents’ unfinished house is because he, like many other Tobagonians, is struggling to afford basic housing needs due to the cost of land on the island and the absence of home ownership opportunities provided by the THA. However, he said he is proud of his humble upbringing.
“Most of my university years my mother had zero employment and a man who was sweeping the road had to mind a child in university, but my parents decided that my son was getting an education and I must sacrifice to ensure that he got to where he never did,” he said.
Augustine said while he was given financial assistance from the THA, it was only able to pay for half of his tuition and while he and his parents and many other Tobagonians understood the value of sacrifice, there was wanton wastage in the THA.
He said after completing his studies, he was asked to repay the debt by working on the island for one year. The former teacher said he spent seven years working on the island and he, like many other Tobagonians, is yet to receive his gratuity payment.
“I saying like Dr Rowley, I ent (don’t) want my money to sleep out. And since you know I’m living downstairs my father house, I want my gratuity now, let me go to the bank and make a down payment on a piece of real estate and have it in my name.”
If appointed Chief Secretary, Augustine said he will ensure all Tobagonians are not only treated fairly but that there are opportunities for young professionals to own homes. And while the banks may not favour the THA’s contract arrangements, he will ensure persons become empowered.
“The THA is the single largest landowner in Tobago. Instead of trying to build homes for everybody and end up building none over the last four years, we propose that to take some of these lands and create service plots to some of these young professionals so that they can have a piece of collateral in their hand so that they can use to get funding.”
However, Augustine proposes that the THA continue to build homes for those in need and create an interest-bearing homeownership fund.