No need for further delays to autonomy talks

Members of the Forum of Political Parties, Chief Secretary Orville London, centre, Tobago Platform of Truth leader Hochoy Charles and PNM Tobago Council Chairman Neil Wilson during Wednesday’s (February 18, 2015) press conference to update the public on Tobago’s autonomy issue.
Chief Secretary Orville London believes the Forum of Political Parties have made significant strides in Tobago’s march for autonomy, and said there is no need to delay the process any further.

London made the statement at a media conference yesterday hosted by the Forum at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall to update the public on the issue, minutes after the Forum met.

Also attending the media conference were Tobago Platform of Truth leader Hochoy Charles and Chairman of the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement, Neil Wilson.

The Chief Secretary pointed out that a lot of the ground work had been done by the Forum and Secretariat in the past year to facilitate the process of gaining autonomy for Tobago. There is no reason for any more delays, he said, as both Central Government and the Forum had already named teams for the talks.

Said London: “We believe that considering all the work that has been done, all the documents that have been presented, considering how vociferously and consistently the people of Tobago have spoken over the past many decades, that there is no reason for any extended delay in this process.

“It is our considered opinion that these teams can in fact finish their business and come up with a document, which can then be presented to the people within 60 days, and that is what we are hoping to put to the Central Government team when we meet. Both the Prime Minister and the team have indicated that this meeting should take as soon after Carnival as possible.”

London suggested that the meeting be held on Monday (February 23rd) at Mt Irvine in Tobago but said he has not yet received confirmation from the Central Government team on the potential date.

Wilson said he was happy that the teams will meet to discuss Tobago’s self-government. He pointed out 11 areas highlighted by the people of Tobago that will be raised.

“We expected all of them to be honoured and respected,” Wilson said. “We will see if Government heeds the voice of the people of Tobago.”

Charles said it was “sad” that the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) remained unrepresented on the Tobago team, adding that he will try to contact TOP leader Ashworth Jack on that issue. Jack, who pulled out of the Forum early in 2014 after its first meeting, accepted the position of adviser to the Central Government team for the talks, which London last week described as a “demotion”.

“Tobago is meeting with Trinidad to tell Trinidad that we want to have the right to determine our destiny,” Charles lamented, “and the leader of Tobago is an adviser to that Government and has abandoned the post of the people, it is so sad. It is the saddest thing in the 21st century. I’m very serious.”

Charles reiterated that it is not a THA team trying to secure Tobago’s self-government but a united Tobago team, a thought reinforced by the Chief Secretary.

“We are not on the same side politically,” London stated, “but in this particular situation we are united.”

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