There was a massive turnout of constituents of Scarborough/Calder Hall at the Mason Hall Secondary School on Thursday night for the launch of the THA “Executive Council Reporting to the Districts” programme.
Reports on the activities of various divisions of the Assembly were presented by two Secretaries and an Assistant Secretary, as well as the Chief Secretary Orville London who represents the district in the House of Assembly. At the end of the session constituents were invited to ask questions and or raise concerns about issues affecting them.
In his wide ranging report which was enthusiastically received by the audience that over flowed from the large auditorium into the foyer of the building, London buoyed by the reception he was receiving said “what happens in Tobago in the next six months will determine what happens to Tobagonians for the next 60 years”.
He said his administration was about “protecting, developing and preserving but regardless of how much we protect, develop and preserve Tobago it will not matter if Tobago does not belong to Tobagonians”.
London said it was the first time in the history of Tobago “we have to fight for what is ours and if we fight and lose, Tobago will be lost”.
He recalled that in 2007 the House of Assembly comprising members of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) voted to appoint an independent working committee headed by Tobagonians Dr John Prince to propose amendments to the THA Act to provide internal self government to Tobago and in 2009 again agreed that the committee recommend amendments to the T&T Constitution as it related to Tobago.
He recalled that for five years the committee went about meeting Tobagonians at 42 workshops and at three consultations across Tobago, as well as Tobagonians in Trinidad and came up with two Bills drafted by senior counsel Russell Martineau. He added that all the political parties in Tobago participated in the exercise without objection. However, he said following the May 24 2010 general election the TOP headed by Minority Leader Ashworth Jack boycotted the debate on the Bills which was later approved and sent to the Prime Minister for Cabinet consideration before releasing them for public comment.
He said the Bills were set aside by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General in collusion with the “Mason Hall boy Ashworth Jack”, and instead a Green Paper was published for public comment.
London noted that the Green Paper differed in a number of ways from the Bills including “what is Tobago, who or what is a Tobagonian, who should vote at a THA election and the parliamentary allocation”. He explained that the Bills propose that the size of Tobago will be up to 200 nautical miles according to international law and would provide vast economic benefits from the marine resources including oil and gas. He added that the Bills propose that someone must be residing in Tobago for four years to vote at an Assembly election and not three months, while they also recommend that the parliamentary allocation should be 8 per cent of the national budget and not 6.9 per cent as propose by the Green Paper.
There were loud shouts of no when the Chief Secretary asked the audience: “Are you going to take that from Ramlogan and Jack, then if you are not going to take that and if it reaches a point where hundreds of Tobagonians don’t want it they will withdraw the Green Paper if they see they are going to lose an election,” he added.
London told his listeners if they felt so strongly about the issue they should put their signature to the petition being circulated at the meeting. He said the petition will then be forwarded to the Prime Minister.
Land leases were also handed out to 22 residents of Adelphi Estate which was recently acquired by the THA.
Constituents of Lambeau/Signal Hill will have their say on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Signal Hill Community Centre.