Deputy Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Farley Augustine said his party has initiated legal action against the Clerk of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Merna McLeod for failing to carry out the proper procedure to elect a new presiding officer.
The six assemblymen remained at the assembly chamber overnight Monday, resolute in their position that both parties—the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the PDP—must sit together until the matter is resolved.
Following the departure of the presiding officer and the PNM members from the latest sitting, PDP members periodically posted videos on social media of the Assemblymen sitting in the chamber awaiting the resumption of the sitting.
Around 6 pm Monday, Political Leader Watson Duke made a call for supporters to “come with food and water” as the staff at the Assembly Legislature Secretariat “locked up everything and left.”
By 7 pm people responded and there were groups of supporters scattered at different locations outside the building.
The six assemblymen emerged from the chamber with food and drinks in hand which they shared with supporters as both Duke and Augustine addressed them.
Augustine said while his party was willing to risk leadership of the THA to get on with the business of governing the island, the PNM appears to be comfortable with operating the executive council with no systems of accountability in place.
“If this is about Tobago matters and members are interested in Tobago matters then members should have not abandoned the process.”
Describing the process as “undemocratic”, Augustine accused the PNM of “drawing down on food cards, giving away household appliances and service contract,” as bribes in the lead up to the recent THA elections.
And while certain members of the previous executive council remain in place, Augustine also questioned the logic of Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis who said it may take as long as six months to sort out the current predicament.
“They want us to continue as is for about six months or longer and we would have a situation where our resources continue to be used without any accountability at all. I prefer to be a minority councillor who could hold them accountable than to have a situation where I’m in the house every week trying to pick a presiding officer and nobody can ask them anything.”
The various PDP assemblymen posted updates throughout the night as they sang hymns and rested at various intervals.
A small group of supporters also kept vigil outside of the THA chamber.
Yesterday morning the group posted another update stating its intention to approach the clerk again to have the meeting resumed. However, Augustine said if that did not occur “a pre-action protocol letter will be issued to the clerk of the house and that sets the stage for court action as we seek judicial review and have the court decide in finality how this process is supposed to go.”
Sources confirmed to Guardian Media that the clerk did report to work yesterday, however, the legal document was left for her at her office.