Prime Minister promises better days for Tobago

Better days are coming for Tobago.

That line seems to sum up the feeling after yesterday’s (October 23, 2015) meeting between Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and Chief Secretary Orville London, who met officially at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort for the first time since Rowley was sworn in Prime Minister on September 9.

The meeting—which also included Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis and Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dennis Moses—lasted roughly 45 more than the slated one-hour.

During what London described as a “very long, fruitful meeting”, Central Government provided a commitment on several issues, including the issue of autonomy for Tobago, and the relationship between the Central Government and the Tobago House of Assembly. Agreements were also reached on various other issues, including Tobago’s allocation from Central Government, municipal police on the island construction of police and fire stations.

Among the decisions taken are that the Chief Secretary will be invited to Cabinet meetings where it is determined that the THA’s input is required, and London will in turn consult the Cabinet as necessary. The Prime Minister will also have quarterly meetings with the Chief Secretary.

“The important thing as far as I am concerned,” London said of the talks, “is the commitment on the part of the administration to continue the dialogue, to continue the conversation so that as the issues develop that we will be able to treat with them and take advantage of the opportunities.

“We recognise the economic challenges facing the country and the island, but we are confident that if we continue to work together we should be able to accelerate the level of development in Tobago.”

London also revealed that construction is likely to begin on the new Scarborough RC Primary School in early 2016.

Dr. Rowley, who is on a two-day visit Tobago for the first time since becoming Prime Minister last month, said Cabinet will start reviewing the THA’s proposals in January, and autonomy could come to Tobago as early as the end of 2016, subject to approval from the Parliament, once the matter is put forward for public consultation.

“Hopefully that will come towards the end of the next calendar year,” he stated, “and we should proceed to once and for all satisfy this quest for self-government, which is really a quest carried by every Tobagonian and brings with it better management of the country if Tobago is better managed.”

Although there is no provision for municipal police in the THA Act of 1996, Rowley said the legislation will be amended to pave the way for introducing it, which he believes will improve the effectiveness of the police force on the island.

Rowley was also asked about the incident where a video circulating on social media seemed to show a caretaker standing on an elderly patient at a home while he was lying on a bed. He described the act as “disgusting”.

“I feel so sad just to view that and coming on what happened with the child and what happened here in Tobago with that chopping (double murder of elderly couple the Wheelers),” he said. “We haven’t been viewed very well and I hope it’s something we’ve seen the last of.

But there are laws and I understand that there is some piece of legislation that is supposed to be proclaimed with respect to protection of the elderly, and that abuse of the elderly is unacceptable. I don’t know what was going through that woman’s mind, but there is a law and the law ought to take its course,” he added.

Yesterday (October 23, 2015), Rowley visited his alma maters, Mason Hall Government Primary and Bishop’s High School, and was greeted by young, enthusiastic students.

Rowley, who celebrates his birthday today (October 24, 2015) with family and friends in his hometown village of Mason Hall, will attend a special sitting of the Tobago House of Assembly at the Assembly Legislature Chamber on Monday (October 26, 2015) from 10 a.m.

He will also be guest of honour at a cocktail reception at 6.30 p.m. hosted by the Chief Secretary and his wife Brigid on Monday at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.

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