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Flashback: Tourists at the beach in Tobago before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Deputy political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Farley Augustine, yesterday clarified that his leader, Watson Duke, never promised to just open beaches.

On Monday night, Duke was speaking to a jubilant Roxborough crowd in the aftermath of the party’s historic victory in the Tobago House of Assembly election and told them that one of the party’s first acts would be to reopen the beaches.

He said then that the PDP would not be intimidated and the authority to manage Tobago’s coastline lay with the Tobago House of Assembly, which will be officially handed over to the PDP tomorrow.

In April, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley closed the beaches as part of the Government’s COVID-19 response.

There have been several calls to reopen the beaches but the PM has maintained that the subsequent large gatherings at the beaches could serve as super-spreaders and cause an uptick in COVID-19 infections.

On Monday, Duke said at the PDP’s first council meeting with the incoming Chief Secretary—Augustine, he would table the reopening of the island’s beaches.

In Tobago, closed beaches mean limited income and jobs related to tourism.

Duke said that the win over the People’s National Movement meant that the Tobago people were no longer slaves and that nobody could “bully” or intimidate the Tobago people or tell them what to do.

“Of course, Duke’s promise triggered a series of social media reactions with people calling for him to open beaches immediately.

“Mr Duke’s promise was that he will bring it to the executive council’s attention and the council will make a decision about what to do,” Augustine said yesterday in response to questions from Guardian Media.

“Should the executive council agree, it will have to be debated in the House,” Augustine added.

He reiterated Duke did not promise to reopen beaches.

“But he promised that he will bring it to the attention of the executive team for immediate consideration,” Augustine clarified.