THA Chief Secretary Orville London said on Friday he was disappointed no representative of the Assembly was officially invited to speak at the opening of the Tobago Technology Centre, a project conceptualised and started by his administration.
London who was not on the programme to speak at the function was invited by chairman Terrence Baynes to deliver brief remarks, although Tobago West MP Dr Delmon Baker and Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin were on the programme to give addresses ahead of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The Tobago Chief Secretary said in his ten years as leader of the Tobago House of Assembly this was one of the most challenging moments that he has had because he had to ask himself “how does one treat with respect without showing disrespect, how does one speak about things that should be done without doing the wrong thing”.
He added: “There are things that have to be said and regardless of the difficulty that I have is really bringing a sour taste to what is a momentous occasion and it is a momentous occasion.”
London said the fact that he was surprised into speaking forced him to speak the truth and asked: “What is the truth. The truth is this the project was conceptualised and actually started and there is a lady who should be here and who should be speaking to you because it was she who was mainly responsible for this project and that lady is a lady called Claudia Groome-Duke, the Secretary of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport.
“It was Mrs Claudia Groome-Duke who with the then Minister (Christine) Kangaloo would have formulated this idea, it was she who would have been responsible for determining the users’ brief after consultation that would have led to the design. All of us were involved in the selection of the contractor,” London said.
London said the project would have started two to three years ago and therefore it was a little bit strange that now that “we are celebrating the culmination of the project that we do not have officially somebody [from the Assembly] and it doesn’t have to be the Chief Secretary to give that part of the project”.
He added that education in Tobago and the development of Tobagonians can never be about a building but how the building and the other resources were utilised for the development of the island and its people which can only be done if there was meaningful collaboration and if there was respect for each other’s space and respect for the people who occupied that space.
“I therefore want to suggest without being hypocritical, without in any way wishing to harp back in the past but to use the past to inform us as we move forward that every single one of us in this room at this point in time must learn the lesson from today and the lesson from today is that we have to do it together and we cannot do it to one of one man ship, we cannot do it by attempting in any way to undermine or under value the contribution of any one element so that the other element can look better,” London said.
He stressed: “Let us forget what has gone on in the past, let us even forget what would have led to today’s formal programme and let us learn from the experience. I bear no malice to anybody. I make mistakes. I make at least one a day but I am saying that this mistake must inform us, so I am saying to the people in this room, especially the decision-makers that education in Tobago is about the Tobago House of Assembly and about the Central Government, especially tertiary education which is one area where the responsibilities are shared, have always been shared and will always be shared. I want to suggest that we ensure that we treat each other with mutual respect, I want us to ensure that we collaborate with each other in a meaningful manner and so that at the end of the exercise that instead of us having to look back to this day as a day when we embarrass each other we can look back on this day as a day when we all learn from the mistakes of the past.
London said it was an opportunity and a challenge to every Tobago child, every Tobago mother and father to make sure the building was over utilised because that was going to be the true test of how the investment was going to benefit the people of Tobago.