Chief Secretary meets Prime Minister

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has agreed to meet Chief Secretary Orville London every quarter to discuss administrative and legislative mechanisms for the promotion of harmony in the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.

This was one of the issues which London took to the one-hour meeting he had with the Prime Minister at the Parliament Building in Port of Spain on Friday. (22nd February 2013) The also discussed internal self government for Tobago, THA representation on State boards, airlift by Caribbean Airlines (CAL), funding for housing, review of the relations between Ministers and Secretaries and revitalisation of the Tobago economy.

With the Prime Minister were Finance Minister Larry Howai and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal. It was the first meeting of the two in almost a year and since London’s PNM trounce the opposition forces 12-0 in the THA election on January 21.

Speaking to reporters London described the meeting as very cordial; however, there was not too much discussion but there was general agreement on many of the issues he raised and the recommendations he would have made. “I still would want to get some confirmation that some of the recommendations I would have made would be accepted by the Central Government.”

Going through the list of issues he raised, London said he didn’t think the present process of the internal self government bill going through Parliament would lead to any resolution. “What I recommended is that we use the Marlborough experience or something similar to that where the THA would put together a team from Tobago and the central government would do the same thing. That team would meet as often and as long as necessary to come up with a common position on this whole issue of internal self government,” he said.

He added that each team would consist of politicians and technocrats.

“All of us have agreed on the ‘what’, that Tobago should have a level of internal self-government in sync with the wishes of the people, and consequently it’s about the ‘how’.”

London said in the past there was politicisation and polarisation of talks but now that the dynamics had changed, he believed there was an excellent opportunity to do it the right way. “I didn’t get concurrence but I didn’t get opposition and I believe it is going to be considered very seriously,” he added.

London said he indicated to the Prime Minister that if this process could start as soon as possible, it would mean that his recommendation for the additional councillors to be appointed by the President does not have to take prominence since this was a recommendation in the THA bills.

The Chief Secretary said he also expressed his concern the role CAL was playing in the development of tourism in Tobago and alleged that the airline was introducing “predatory pricing on routes into Trinidad and Tobago, deterring foreign airlines from bringing people into Tobago”.

He said Tobago’s tourism sector was suffering as a consequence and added that the airline’s commercial viability cannot be the only concern.

London said the call for Trinidadian visitors to boycott Tobago was having no effect and described the call as “preposterous” and a “ridiculous statement and position”.

Asked whether he had raised the timely release of budgetary allocations to Tobago, London said that was an election ploy and preferred to leave it alone. However, he said, he did tell the Prime Minister: “Don’t trouble me and I wouldn’t trouble you.”

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