Chief Secretary reports to House

Chief Secretary, Orville London.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London has said his administration was committed to work with the Central Government in the construction of a “Corridor of Cooperation” between the Central Government and the Assembly.

He said regardless of political differences, his administration was responsible for the governance of Tobago for at least four more years while the People’s Partnership Government had a further two and a half years in governance and “we must give priority to our responsibility to work together, in the development of the people of Tobago and the people of Trinidad and Tobago”.

The Chief Secretary was delivering a statement at Thursday’s (28th February 2013) plenary sitting of the Assembly on his 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Friday. He said this was in keeping with his Administration’s commitment to inform and consult the people of Tobago on critical issues of governance.

He added: “Your administration in the Tobago House of Assembly will therefore be pursuing all the matters discussed at the meetings and will continue to keep Tobago informed, as we fulfill our mandate to bring true democracy and total people involvement in the governance of the island.”

London said it was significant that, after more than one year, the Prime Minister had responded positively to a request for a meeting with the Chief Secretary and it was hoped that the end of the electioneering period will signal a change in the vitriolic and polarised environment which was evident before the 21st of January.

He said the Prime Minister had agreed to have quarterly non-crisis meetings with the Chief Secretary and it was interesting to note that the Prime Minister did agree that the position taken by the Minister of the People who had disregarded a thirty-year tradition and appointed his own Local Public Assistance Board should be reviewed.

“I have requested the Secretary of Health and Social Services to pursue the matter. I have also requested all Secretaries to initiate contact with their relevant counterpart Ministers so that a more meaningful and mutually respectful relationship can be developed,” he said.

London also reported that a request was made for the urgent convening of a meeting between the Assembly and the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Trade and the Minister of Tourism to discuss and implement a more collaborative approach in the revitalisation of the Tobago economy. This meeting, he added, will focus on the status of the incentive programmes for the tourism sector in Tobago; the granting of special concessions at the Cove Eco Industrial Park; the upgrade of the ANR Robinson airport and the posture of Caribbean Airlines whose policies continue to frustrate Tobago’s tourism threat.

Present at last Friday’s meeting were Minister of Finance Larry Howai and Minister of Housing Dr. Roodal Moonilal. Among the agenda items proposed by London and discussed were: Review of the process for the granting of Internal Self-Government to Tobago; Review of the relationship between Ministers of Government and Secretaries in the Tobago House of Assembly; Funding for the Housing Programme in Tobago; and THA representation on relevant National Boards and Committee.

London said on the critical issue of the process for the granting of Internal Self-Government to Tobago featured prominently in the discussion but the Prime Minister and her Ministers were non committal on his recommendation that the Central Government should abort the present process which could only result in an acrimonious and unproductive debate in Parliament; he recommended instead that both the Central Government and the Tobago House of Assembly should appoint teams comprising politicians and technocrats.

These teams, he added, would meet, discuss all the submissions on Internal Self-Government for Tobago and eventually reach consensus on a Draft Bill which could then be presented for public discussion and the deliberation of the Assembly and Cabinet, before debate and final resolution in the Parliament.

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