Central Government’s efforts to erode the authority of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) could eventually render the Assembly irrelevant, Chief Secretary Orville London has warned.
London said he is seeing a pattern where Central Government is overstepping its jurisdiction in Tobago through the Ministry of Tobago Development, as well as in cutting the THA’s fiscal allocation and in the way it has handled autonomy talks.
The Chief Secretary stated that Government is acting as if the people of Tobago are irrelevant, and must be “stopped in its tracks”.
“Just as how we have them here again, gradually trying to erode the authority and limit the space in which the THA is operating, “London said, “if we allow them to continue to do that and we do little or nothing, and if God forbid they have additional time in power after the election, I am convinced that the THA would in fact be made irrelevant by then. That is the challenge that I have. ”
Autonomy talks have lasted two meetings since beginning on March 4 (2015), the second of which was postponed on the request of Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, who heads the Central Government committee in discussions with a Tobago team led by London. Although that meeting was eventually rescheduled, the third instalment—set for May 6—was postponed too. There has been no word from Government, London said, on a new date.
“Minister Douglas indicated that they had a meeting and they did; that was the same meeting where they would have moved a motion against the Leader of the Opposition. Since then I have had no communication from him (Douglas). In fact, I called him, I didn’t get a response.”
London has since resorted to text messaging, to which he said Dr. Douglas usually responds.
“I’m hoping that he does this time and we (the Tobago team) are ready because we believe that we have a responsibility to the people of Tobago and to the country to do what should be done. Therefore we will continue doing what have to do.”
In addition to London, the Tobago team comprises Tobago Platform of Truth (TPT) leader Hochoy Charles, former Minister of Government and ex-Parliamentarian Stanford Callender, representing the People’s National Movement (PNM), and former THA Chief Administrator Allan Richards. Senior Council Gilbert Peterson and attorney Ingrid Melville are their advisers.
The Central Government team includes Tobago Development Minister Dr. Delmon Baker, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh and Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj. They are being advised by Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack and Tobagonian Senior Council, Christo Gift.