Back to square one. That is from where officials of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) are prepared to resume negotiations with the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement(PNM) for a temporary share of Tobago’s administrative and legislative power.
The party’s new stance comes hours after the PNM rejected the PDP’s call for independent negotiators in future negotiations’ meetings. The first in-person negotiations between the two parties failed on March 17.
Responding to the PNM’s rejection, in a Facebook post yesterday, PDP leader Watson Duke said: “All bets are off.”
He said the PDP is withdrawing support for the PNM’s Island Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine for Chief Secretary. Instead, it is supporting one of its deputy leaders, Farley Augustine.
The PDP had agreed to accept the lesser positions of Deputy Chief Secretary and Deputy Presiding Officer. The party also named its preferred Executive Council positions.
Duke also said negotiations would begin at zero as the PNM behaves as if it controls the discussions.
“I want to serve Tracy ( Davidson-Celestine) notice and all her gang notice as so far as today, all deals are off. All bets are off. When we come to negotiate, and we are saying yes, we want to negotiate. But we are negotiating from zero now,” he said.
Duke added:” All positions are up for grabs. We not making any demands for any positions, and so you must not make any. Let’s come to the table . . . When you come to the table you come to the table, not as a Secretary but as an Assemblyman without any power.”
Referring to the number of seats each party won on January 25, he said: “There is no big six or little six; it’s six/six.”
On the PNM continued control of Tobago’s administration, Duke said it is “an old mandate from Tobagonians. The people voted for a new mandate.”
Duke also spoke about President Paula-Mae Weekes’s assenting to the Tobago Amendment Bill on March 16. He said the bill, which increases Tobago’s electoral districts from 12 to 15, making way for fresh elections, is “illegal.”
In a release earlier on Saturday, the PNM said having mediators shows both parties are not mature enough to set aside their differences.
“The Tobago PNM is therefore uncomfortable with the proposal to utilize mediators, at this time, in our efforts to resolve the impasse,” the release noted.
“If we send the signal we can not resolve the impasse . . . we could be hard-pressed to convince the public that we will be unable to engender the level and quality of collaboration that will prevent the administration from descending into chaos after any ‘arrangement’.”
Citing the THA Act #40 of 1996, the PNM reiterated its stance that the Chief Secretary, chosen by the PNM, will determine who will fill posts in the Executive Council.
The PDP and PNM won six seats each in the Tobago House of Assembly(THA) January 25 elections. There is no functioning legislature in the THA and no new administration. As provided by law, the former administration, run by the PNM, continues in power.