PNM supporters gather at the Aukensekoch Roundabout to support the Tobago House of Assembly candidate for Bethel/New Grange, Downey Marcelle, before the party’s meeting in the area yesterday.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley took aim at Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke on Saturday night, as he warned Tobagonians to be careful whose hands they put the island’s future in during the Tobago House of Assembly election on December 6.

Speaking during a People’s National Movement Tobago Council meeting Mason Hall/Moriah, Rowley again raised the rape charge Duke is facing before the courts as well as his tenure at the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) in suggesting the PDP leader was unfit for office.

Claiming that Duke’s company earned had some $16 million through “familial contact” at WASA, Rowley said, “So my simple question is what did this money get paid for? It was for fixing stopcocks. Well, WASA have a lot of stopcocks and all them want fixing.”

He claimed the Dukes’ company also got money for paving roads but all the contracts were given secretly.

“Because with all the garrulous statements he was making, he never told you that he had arrangements in place where every month, he got the biggest cheque in WASA. He never told you that,” Rowley said.

Rowley said in reading a WASA audit report, something else stood out to him with the application form to be considered a contractor.

The Prime Minister said in the document which Duke’s company filed, there were no employees, supervisors or managers listed and only one previous contract listed under jobs. Under equipment, Rowley said there was one jumping jack and a used backhoe.

“They had done something in Tobago here, which I suspect, used his influence and got something here in Tobago for $800,000,” Rowley said.

On that basis, Rowley said the company qualified for WASA contracts and earned $16 million.

Rowley said every year, taxpayers were pumping $2 billion to subsidise WASA.

“And he extracted from that situation, $16 million and counting,” Rowley said.

Rowley said he joined the campaign because Tobagonians are “likely to be led astray,” noting that while the PDP lists Duke as its political leader, deputy leader Farley Augustine stands as the face of the organisation.

Rowley said people relied on leaders to put someone with integrity on the ballot, which is why no one on the PNM slate is facing a “rape charge.”

“Nobody could be bold enough to want to offer him or herself at Balisier House in Trinidad or in Tobago to represent the PNM in an election, while you are on a rape charge. Because they know if that is the case, you would be soundly rejected,” he said.

Duke was placed on $250,000 bail last year after he appeared in court charged with one sexual offence and four offences of indecent assault.

“But apparently Tobagonians have a different standard now,” Rowley said.

He said Tobagonians should be cautious that Augustine was putting himself forward as the PDP leader but Duke was not. He said the minute the longstanding Public Services Association (PSA) fell into Duke’s hands, “all hell broke loose.”

“To the extent where the PSA has spent more money in the courthouse with the president fighting the members, more than they spend money on the members themselves,” he said.

He reminded supporters that Duke left the PSA, collected retirement money and has continued working.

“What kind of man would encourage an organisation to pay him money as retirement, collect the money, spend it and still stay in office as president? And that is the man that you all want to put in charge of Tobago House of Assembly?” he said.

“Why is the leader allowing an imposter to be campaigning as the leader and of course, in the event that they win, you will have one as the leader and the other one as secretary of finance. And Tobago’s difficulty will begin right then.”

He also doubled down on the claim that the PDP was working with the United National Congress to give Tobago independence. But Rowley said that independence would be costly for Tobago.

“What exists now as the unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago, these two gentlemen, politicians who are getting support in Tobago, want something else,” he said.

Rowley said that there was no better position for Tobago than as an integral part of the nation of T&T.

“And that is the PNM position, punto finale,” he said.

Rowley said the PDP had brought a “card-carrying UNC member” to talk about boundaries between Trinidad and Tobago.

“And I didn’t see any objection from Tobago. Apparently, you all were asleep, apparently don’t care,” he said, adding the expert was a “mouthpiece” of the UNC.

Meanwhile, PNM Tobago council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine promised that over 80 acres of land will be distributed to some 22 farmers in Mason Hall if the party wins the election.

She also detailed plans to improve healthcare by twinning the Scarborough Hospital with one in New York to transfer skills and operating procedures to reduce wait times at clinics and the Scarborough Hospital.

Davidson-Celestine also said tourism sector performance had declined by 31 per cent and the manufacturing sector by 21 per cent but noted this was “not as badly as we expected.”