Controversy over the appointment of a new five-member Local Public Assistance Board is holding up the processing of an undisclosed number of applications from Tobagonians for pension and other forms of social assistance benefits.
As a result the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) plans to introduce an emergency social assistance card, Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Dr Anselm London has disclosed.
He explained that the card will be used mainly on a one-off basis, to assist in the special cases of senior citizens and other Tobagonians who find themselves in dire need of food supplies and of medical supplies.
Dr London said the decision to issue the card was also taken because of the numerous “mis-statements” by the People’s Partnership government on pension payments and from its refusal to adhere to precedent in the formulation of the Tobago board.
The THA has been making recommendations to the Central Government on the appointment of board members for the past three decades and these have been accepted no matter which political party was in office.
Chief Secretary Orville London has said the Assembly submitted its recommendations for the appointment of four members to the vacant positions on the board to the Ministry of the People and Social Development seven months ago. However, Minister Glen Ramadarsingh went ahead and appointed his own members, one of whom was dead and another refused to take up the appointment made by the President while a third resided in Trinidad.
The board has not met since January since staff of the THA Social Services Department was not interfacing with the members.
In congratulating Tobago West MP Dr Delmon Baker on his appointment as Minister of Tobago Development, Chief Secretary London urged him to learn from the experiences of his predecessor Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin whom he also congratulated on her appointment as Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development.
London said the two should have a commitment to serve the people of Tobago and to conduct Tobago’s business in a very professional way. He added that they should also find a way to ensure the views of Tobagonians were respected and the THA recommendations to the Tobago Local Public Assistance Board be accepted.