The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on Thursday night affirmed its commitment to the preservation and eventual enhancement of its authority and autonomy. It also condemned and resisted any effort to undermine the authority and erode the autonomy of the Assembly.
This came through a motion at the plenary sitting of the Assembly moved be THA Chief Secretary Orville London. The motion was passed with ten members of the PNM administration voting for the motion and the three Minority TOP members present abstaining. Minority Leader Ashworth Jack had earlier left the sitting after making a short contribution, asking to be excused because of a “cold”.
In moving the motion, Mr. London stated that the THA Act No. 40 of 1996 gave the Assembly significant authority and autonomy with respect to matters set out in the Fifth Schedule of the Act. In fulfilment of this, he said, the Assembly had a prime responsibility to ensure that its autonomy and authority were respected.
He added that the Central Government also had a legal and moral obligation to respect the authority and autonomy of the Assembly and pointed out that in recent months, there has been a sustained and systematic effort by Central Government Ministers and agencies to undermine the authority and erode the autonomy of the Assembly.
In giving examples of the “intrusion” of the Ministers in contravention of Schedule 5 of the THA Act, Mr. London said before the May 24 general election the law as it related to Tobago was respected and although he was given the assurance of respect by Prime Minister Kamala Persad-Bissessar it was not so and the deliberate undermining of the Assembly had continued.
He said the Government had bypassed the THA in appointments to State boards except where this was required by Acts of Parliament. “These people don’t care and this is why I ask the people on the other (Minority) Side to cleanse their soul. What do you get for selling your dignity,” he said. He added that this had never happened in the 30 years of the Assembly.
Mr. London cited instances in which the Minister of Tobago Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Social Development Minister Glen Ramadarsingh, Housing and Settlements Minister Dr. Roodal Monilal and Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath had over-stepped their authority since the THA Act did not give them such.
In appealing to Minority members to support the motion, Mr London said he considered such support to be a very critical decision that must transcend party politics and urged them to take off their yellow jerseys (TOP’s colours) and put on their suits to support the motion in the interest of Tobago and Tobagonians. He said he was concerned that Tobagonians were not standing up for their rights.
In his contribution Deputy Chief Secretary Hilton Sandy urged members to support the motion to send a message to the Central Government that they cannot come to Tobago and undermine the authority of the THA. “What is sad is that after 30 years of the Assembly you have people coming hereto roll back the gains we have made,” he added. Sandy appealed to the Minority members not to allow the People’s Partnership Government to roll back the gains made over the past 30 years.