THA to appeal ruling on reforestation row

Lawyers for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will appeal last Wednesday’s (June 10th) ruling of Justice Nadia Kangaloo in favour of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

The judgement relates to the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation in Tobago. The THA filed for judicial review, saying its rights were infringed by the Ministry, which terminated the services of community groups in Tobago – contracted to carry out the reforestation in areas like Argyle, Speyside and Belle Garden under the THA’s Division of Agriculture – in favour of its own officials.

Chief Secretary Orville London told the media on Friday that there are at least four or five areas where the Assembly believes the judge has erred in law.

Senior legal counsel Alvin Pascall, one of the Assembly’s attorneys in the matter, said the THA wanted to clarify the powers of the Cabinet in relation to the Assembly as stated in the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act No. 40 of 1996. He added that THA attorneys have concluded that there are substantial errors in the judgement. Pascal said an Appeal Court ruling would be more acceptable because it would include the consensus of three judges, as opposed to one in the High Court.

The Chief Secretary is in firm support of the recommendation to appeal the ruling.

London said: “Even from a commonsense perspective and even from a perspective of setting up the Tobago House of Assembly, one cannot accept that (granting veto power to the Ministry over the THA) was the intention of the draftsmen or the intent of the lawmakers at that point in time.

“This ruling must be and will be appealed. The 2013 Bill proposed by the Government would have faced the same challenges as the 1996 [Constitutional Amendment (Tobago)] Bill.”

According to London, the ruling highlights the need to bring satisfactory closure to the issue of Tobago’s self-government once and for all. Tobago, he stated, will always be susceptible to the machinations of this unscrupulous Central Government if the law and the constitution are not organised to protect the island.

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