Camille McEachnie

The meeting between the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and People’s National Movement(PNM) to temporarily share governance of Tobago has ended in a stalemate.

Each party accused the other of dishonesty.

Going into the meeting, the PDP said it would support the PNM’s nominees for Chief Secretary and Presiding Officer.

In exchange, the PNM said it would support the PDP’s choice for Deputy Chief Secretary and Deputy Presiding Officer, all other secretarial positions were to be shared equally.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting held in the Assembly Legislative Building, Scarborough, late yesterday, PDD’s leader Watson Duke accused the PNM of not operating in good faith.

He said they wanted the resumes of PDP’s nominees for Secretaries and assistant secretaries and demanded he apologizes for statements he made during the recent Tobago House of Assembly(THA) elections.

He also accused them of turning up to the meeting with more than the agreed number of Assemblymen.

“She (Tracy Davidson -Celestine) said let us keep the group for the meeting small, you bring three (assemblymen) and we bring three (assemblymen). When I came here today, she had the full six,” Duke said.

He said his suggestion to call the other three PDP assemblymen was dismissed by Davidson -Celestine.

Duke said he agreed to proceed with the meeting “in the interest of Tobago.”

He said what happened next stunned his team.

” You could imagine a document demanding an apology? The political leader of the PDP must apologise to PNM people for statements made on the platform. They (PNM) made statements against the PDP, but she creates a document…demanding my apology.”

He said the Tobago PNM Council leader wanted the PDP to supply the names, resumes, and biography for all PDP’s nominees for secretarial positions, and the PNM will decide who to choose for the positions.

PNM’s Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson -Celestine, who also spoke to reporters after the meeting, refuted those statements.

She said she did not demand the resumes of the PDP’s nominees and only asked Duke to apologize for statements he made on the hustlings about how he planned to treat PNmites once he got into office.

She also said she was operating within the confines of the law.

She said the THA Act required the Chief Secretary to choose the secretaries and assistant secretaries.

She said PNM’s nominees will fill five of the nine positions for secretarial posts and two of the three councilors’ positions, effectively controlling the administrative and legislative arms of the THA.

” We did not ask for any bios or resumes. I said we would give you four (positions), and we will take five,” Davidson- Celestine said she told the PDP.

Asked why the PNM is seeking to control both THA bodies, she referred to the THA Act.

She said THA Act #40 of 1996 indicates the Chief Secretary “has the responsibility in a manner that will ensure that we have good governance… and for carrying out certain roles and responsibilities and having the authority to manage the Executive Council in a particular way.”

The PDP and PNM agree to meet again, but neither party could fix a date as both accused the other of dishonesty.

On January 25, 2021. the PDP and PNM won six seats each in the THA elections.

On January 28, they were inaugurated by President Paula- Mae Weekes. There is no functioning Assembly as neither supported each other’s choice for Presiding Officer- the first step in convening the House.