Mid-year target to bring self-government to Parliament

It’s up to Parliament, and not Tobago, to grant the island self-government.

That was the reminder Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gave on his second official visit to Tobago on Tuesday (January 12, 2016). Rowley said also his government has the majority of seats, but that it is the combined input of the parliament who will determine the issue, where some components of the proposed legislations will require a special majority.

“The parliament has three blocks of people, the government, the opposition and the independents; those are the three blocks of people who will determine the issue,” Dr Rowley told a media briefing at the Administrative Complex which houses the Office of the Chief Secretary.

“Our influence may be larger numerically but what that is worth, it is the carrier of the information to the parliament and convincing the people in the parliament what Tobago is asking for is supportable. The key to this whole thing is what happens in parliament,” he said

Dr Rowley met with Chief Secretary Orville London and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy (who is responsible for Tobago Affairs) in his office for more than hour. They discussed the need for improved inter-island travel on the air bridge, construction of a new  terminal at the ANR Robinson International Airport, water and energy, regularisation of land titles, housing, the revamping of the Studley Park quarry, development of certain tourism sites and Tobago’s demand for self-government.

The Prime Minister said the self-government discussion will continue in Tobago and in the next few weeks documents on the issue will be provided to the Cabinet.

He added: “When those documents come to the Cabinet the Cabinet will discuss those documents and the Cabinet will have a position on what Tobago has put forward. The Cabinet will put those documents to the wider national community.”

Rowley said the documents will go to a joint select committee of the parliament and at that stage those documents will be actively pursued through public comment.

Dr Rowley said Tobago may not get every single thing it demands, adding: “we hope that Tobago will get most of what it wants; if we accept that and with successful negotiations the future will look bright”. If things go as planned, the Prime Minister said, Cabinet could be in a position to take the matter before Parliament by mid-year.

London acknowledged that Tobago’s success depends on the Parliament, but is satisfied that Tobago’s position will be “part of the discussion at every stage”. Although he is heartened by the progress being made, he is also realistic about the need to convince Cabinet on the importance of Tobago’s demands.“We are not insensitive to the fact that in the final analysis it is the Cabinet,” London said.”You can’t go to the Cabinet and instruct, but you (can) go and make a very good case and expect that you come out with something that (doesn’t) in any way prevent us from ensuring that we get the level of internal self-government that we have been requesting and we have been demanding over the years.”

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