Augustine rubbishes call by Minority Council for apology to senior citizens


THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has described as “rubbish” a call by the Minority Council for an apology to senior citizens.

During his wrap up on debate on the 2022-2023 fiscal package presentation on June 23, at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough, Augustine said: “We met people in their 70s, 60-something, retired long time, arthritis knocking out their knees and they holding on and we don’t want to put young people there. I made a very firm position – when your contract up, go home and mind grandbabies.”

The statement was made on the heels of a response by Minority Leader Kelvon Morris who, during his contribution, called on the assembly to have a policy of knowledge transfer, giving young people in the workforce a clear pathway.

Morris said people on the verge of retiring should be given the opportunity to be part of a three-year mentorship programme where the senior can mentor the young professionals.

Raising the issue during Tuesday evening’s Minority Report on Tobago Updates, Morris said he believes Augustine was disrespectful to those who served, to the extent that the only role seniors are good for is to go home and mind grandchildren.

“While that has been a Tobago cultural experience and reality, I believe our seniors should be valued or seen in a much more glowing terms than to just be in that condescending way as it was put over.”

He said he was shocked Augustine also spoke of the ailments of senior citizens.

“For someone who is leading the island, I would caution him to be a little more caring – to be a little more respectful to our seniors, to our elders, to those who would have cared for us.

“I am calling on him to make an apology to all persons, all seniors in Tobago and Trinidad because I find that comment was very disrespectful.”

His sentiments were shared by Minority councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit who said she remembers being taught, as a child, to respect her elders and those in authority. She said while she understands the Chief Secretary wants to make opportunities available to young people, it’s not what is done but how it is done.

“You don’t have to speak to our seniors, in a manner that is unbecoming, that is degrading, that is disrespectful. To me, you have to be respectful at all times even if someone would have offended you in whatever way.

In response, Augustine said: “That’s just rubbish. Let’s be very honest. We have a retirement age in this country. We can’t want to give young people opportunities and rob them of it at the same time.

“To everything, there is a season. I’m sure most of our seniors understand the scripture as well. Everything has a season. When your season has come to an end, when your winter has arrived, it is time to gracefully give the opportunity to young people.”

Augustine said he suggested, during the debate, that retirees can be used as consultants.

“We can engage them for not more than one year at a time, but I am firm in my mind that long-term positions within the THA must be reserved for those who are of productive working age, fullstop – end of story.

“It cannot be that we have young Tobagonians who are going abroad to study, who are expanding their horizons and returning home, struggling to find a job, struggling to get an opportunity, and we keep saying to them – ‘Not today, you wait, we’re not finished yet, you wait you’re not ready enough, you wait we can’t do it your way.’”

He added: “I have nothing against the elders, but I am saying, make better use of your retirement. Your retirement plan cannot be the THA.

“The truth is, those who make the most noise are those who benefit from a disadvantageous system, those are the ones making the most noise. But I am firm in my mind that is the right policy, and that is the policy we would go with.”

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