THA Chief Secretary Orville London yesterday (Monday 4th June 2012) said the People’s Partnership Central Government is “playing very very cheap politics and in fact in some cases obscene politics” with the issue of self government for Tobago.
He went further to say in a statement that it is “erroneous, misleading and mischievous” for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to say the people of Tobago were never given an opportunity to examine, pronounce and comment on the two THA Bills he sent her.
The Chief Secretary stressed: “Everybody in Tobago will know that those Bills are in fact the result of four years of collaboration. In other words what you are doing there is imputing the integrity of people like Dr John Prince, Dr Eastlyn McKenzie, Dr Rita Pemberton and Carlos Dillon (members of a THA working committee), they and Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, these are the individuals who would have gone out, interface with the Tobago public in 41communities and at three consultations, prepare the Draft Bills, prepare the recommendations, had the bills reviewed by Mr Martineau, those are the bills that were presented.”
He said the THA recognised that it did not want the process to be tainted in any way so that when the Bills passed through the House of Assembly it did not alter a single comma, so “what went to the PM is what came to us directly from the bipartisan committee appointed by the THA and representing the views of the people of Tobago”.
London added: “What you are asking us to do is to dump four years of effort, to dump the views and effort of thousands of Tobagonians and replace it with a document emanating from the Office of the Attorney General. He added that he had no problem whatsoever with what the government wished to do with its Green Paper but viewed very strongly any process that was totally going to disregard the views of thousands of Tobagonians gathered over a four year period; “something about that has to be wrong”.
London recalled that in three pieces of correspondence to the Prime Minister he had indicated that “what we are requesting is for the Bills to be transmitted to the Cabinet for consideration and after that they be sent to Parliament for its deliberation and final resolution. “Even the Motion that is now being circulated in Tobago speaks to the question of the views of the people of Tobago being part of a Green Paper to be discussed at public consultations,” he noted.
He said the Assembly accepted that this has to be a conversation between Tobago and Trinidad “but we are also saying that in that context the views of the people of Tobago should be put on the national agenda for discussion”.
London said with all due respect to political analyst Dr Hamid Ghany who was appointed to head new deliberations on the self government issue that he (London) was a “little bit concerned as to what can be achieved outside of what has already been achieved and whether the premise on which this committee has been set up, might not be flawed”.
He said at the final public consultation in Scarborough former head of the Public Service Reggie Dumas brought his bill and indicated to the THA working committee in the presence of all the people there that he was prepared to put his bill in the mix. Discussions were subsequently held between the Dumas committee and the THA appointed committee.
London pointed out that the bill in the Green Paper only treated with the Constitution of the Republic of T&T and asked “even if we are to go through this process how do you get internal self government without the THA Act itself being reviewed. He said a lot of people do not remember that in 1996 there was an Act No 39 to amend the Constitution and an Act No 40 to amend the THA Act and recalled that both of them were debated in the same session so as to facilitate a speedy resolution of the issue.
“At this point in time if you are only discussing the constitutional issues as in the Green Paper you have to come back and treat with the THA Act, how are you going to achieve that between now and the end of the year, that baffles me,” London said.
London also objected to the PM’s posture on the holding of discussions with him on the issue of internal self government for Tobago. He said the THA Act states very clearly that the PM and Chief Secretary shall meet to foster harmonious relations between the Central Government and the THA. “It is therefore quite revealing,” he said, “that a Prime Minister who is claiming to ‘put Tobago first’ could get up on a political platform and give the impression that he did not even have the right to request a meeting with her.”