The next year could be the most critical in the life of the Tobago House of Assembly, Chief Secretary Orville London said in his 31st Anniversary Assembly Day Message to Tobagonians on Wednesday.
“We are all aware that, over the past four years, we worked together, and I repeat, worked together, to arrive at a Tobago consensus on the relationship between the two islands of our Sovereign Democratic State. We should be proud that our discussions, even our arguments and disagreements were conducted in a non partisan environment in which no political party or interest group wielded undue influence,” he said.
He noted that the process was now at the stage where the views of the people of Tobago must be transmitted to the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago for its consideration, before onward transmission to the Parliament, for debate and final resolution. He said Tobagonians must be mindful that the Bills prepared by Senior Counsel, Russell Martineau, represented their recommendations; that these recommendations were superior to any other proposals in the public domain at this time, and that these recommendations represented greater benefits, greater protection, greater autonomy and a brighter and more predictable quality of life for future generations of Tobagonians.
London said this was no time for political gamesmanship and self seeking theatrics. “This is Tobago time,” he stressed, “time for Tobago people to make their voices heard, and to send their message, loud and clear, across the waters. I urge you, therefore, to keep abreast of all developments; draw your own conclusions, and take appropriate action in your own interest and the interest of all your brothers and sisters in Tobago.”
He announced that hundreds of contract workers employed with the Assembly will shortly have their remuneration packages adjusted to bring them in line with their public service counterparts. The adjustment is expected to cost the Assembly between $40M and $50M.
He also disclosed that a special Young Professionals Programme was being introduced at a cost of $20M and said the island’s young people will continue to receive special attention with an increased allocation for training and post-secondary education.
London said some levels of unpredictability still existed within the tourism sector which remained the second largest employer on the island, after the Tobago House of Assembly. He added that the Assembly will continue to hope that the tourism sector will not experience significant and long-term negative fallout from the imposition of the State of Emergency and the international media focus on the alleged assassination plot against the Prime Minister and Members of her Cabinet.
He said Tobago’s development and Tobago’s preparation will continue, unabated. The road resurfacing programme was being intensified and, with the start of the dry season, the progress will become even more evident and predictable. Scores of farmers will benefit from the Road Improvement Programme of the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment; and the Land Management Unit will be responding more urgently to the requests for agricultural land and for the regularisation of leases for present occupiers.
He said business opportunities for local, regional and international entrepreneurs will increase dramatically by the end of the second quarter of 2012 when the Cove Eco Industrial Park becomes functional and natural gas becomes available at the site.
He added that plans were also well advanced for the lighting of 11 playing fields in the next quarter, and, dependent on the outcome of a pilot project at the Pembroke Recreation ground, solar lighting will be installed on at least six other recreational grounds, during the fiscal year. The recreational opportunities in the communities will be further enhanced with the provision of play parks in nine communities, the first phase of a programme that will involve every community in Tobago.
London also announced that arrangements were close to finalisation for the covering of the hard courts at Shaw Park, while, earlier this week, officials of three Divisions of the Assembly were engaged in discussions relative to the financing and construction of the Bacolet Indoor Stadium and Aquatic Centre. He added that the athletic track at the Dwight Yorke Stadium will be re-laid early next year, hopefully in collaboration with the Ministry of Sport.
He said it was becoming more evident that the Financial Complex, the Scarborough Library and the Shaw Park Cultural Complex projects will all be delivered to the people of Tobago by the end of the fiscal year and that they will be world-class facilities of which all of Tobago will be proud.