Tobago draft autonomy bill goes to Cabinet at the end of October

Chief Secretary Orville London is reminding Tobagonians that it is their responsibility to participate in Sunday’s convention at the Lowlands Multipurpose Facility, starting at 3 p.m., where the public will have one final chance to voice their views on the draft bill for Tobago’s autonomy.

The draft bill will be submitted to Cabinet by the end of October 2016.

The Chief Secretary made the comment earlier today at a media conference at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall, to update the public on the process from here on.

London said the reason the process has taken so long is that the Forum of Political Parties, which has led the campaign for Tobago’s autonomy, has focused on extensive public consultations. This, London added, will ensure the final draft bill that goes to Cabinet by the end of October best represents the views of the majority of Tobagonians.

He cautioned, however, that there will not be total consensus on every issue.

“I want to caution that regardless of the final decision, there is not going to be unanimity,” the Chief Secretary stated. “And therefore there are going to be areas where people are not going to be comfortable, but what I want people to accept is that we have been more consultative in this process than I think any other similar process in the history of this country.”

London described the Forum as being a “conduit” for the mandate of Tobagonians in the island’s quest for self-determination. He said the draft bill is not about the views of the political parties involved.

“We were the people who got the information, disseminated the information to as wide a cross section of people as possible and then coming out of that, we present a bill to the people of Tobago,” he stated.

The discussions at the convention will centre on a number of areas where there has been no final consensus. These include whether self-government should be implemented in a one-off process or incrementally; provisions for the new THA Act (such as the judiciary and public utilities); and the definition of Tobago’s boundaries as a “sub-region” of Trinidad and Tobago.

Issues such as the structure of government that will follow self-government status, the Tobago Service Commission, the Tobago Ombudsman and provisions for financing the THA have also produced varying views, as well as mechanisms for dispute resolution, the application of national laws in Tobago and the transition to an autonomous region are also on the list.

London said the convention will represent the public’s final opportunity “to influence the bill”, which will then be tabled at a special sitting of the Tobago House of Assembly. He offered two tentative dates for this session as either October 13 or October 20.

Once that is done, the bill will be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. London said Cabinet will then determine if the bill goes to Parliament or if it will be open to wider national consultation.

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