Almost 600 people voted to “authorise, instruct and mandate The Forum of Political Leaders to take all proper and necessary steps to achieve and secure democratic self- government for Tobago in the shortest possible time”.
At Sunday’s final Self Government Convention, a packed audience at the Signal Hill Secondary School venue also asked The Forum to ensure that the self government secured for Tobago includes appropriate provisions concerning 11 issues discussed and agreed at that same convention..
The Forum comprises the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Tobago Platform of Truth, while the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) dropped out of the process after the first meeting in January.
Sunday’s convention was the culmination of a process of 12 meetings with interest groups and four regional meetings in Trinidad and Tobago to listen to the views of the people.
The 11 issues that Tobagonians agreed upon at Sunday’s convention include:
• The responsibility of the Tobago Administration to formulate and implement policy on all matters affecting the lives of people resident in Tobago
• Equality of status between the islands and a constitutional, legislative and administrative framework reflecting such equality
• A federal-type system of governance
• Definition of the boundaries of each island
• Jurisdiction and control over economic resources in Tobago’s defined geographic space
• Freedom for the Tobago Administration to make laws to govern Tobago
• Ability to borrow to fund Tobago’s Development
• Authority and responsibility in the Tobago Administration to formulate and implement fiscal policy, including taxation measures
• Removal of Cabinet dominance and over-ride of decisions made in Tobago by the Tobago Administration
• Legal framework providing for the wider participation of society in the decision making process of the Tobago Administration
• Management and control of the inter-island transportation systems to reside in Tobago
The issues were read out for voting, and each one drew loud applause.
Chief Secretary Orville London said the mandate of the convention was for the Forum of Political Leaders and, by extension, the THA to make sure the demands of the people of Tobago were translated into action.
He said that one of the first challenges they will have is to ensure that the demands are placed in a particular format: “The group has to strategise on the how; in other words, are they going to take it to the prime minister? Are they going to take it to parliament? Will they eventually take it to international and regional agencies? Basically, the committee has to translate the enthusiasm and the demands expressed at the convention into the kind of process that will allow these demands to be met”.
London said it would be difficult for the government to ignore the clarion call of so many Tobagonians at the convention because it would not just be ignoring the Forum or the Assembly but ignoring the citizens of Tobago who were speaking loudly and consistently on this heartfelt issue.