Tobago will not relax on self-government

The Forum of Political Parties will meet in two weeks to fine tune its position on self-governance for Tobago, THA Chief Secretary Orville London stated at Thursday’s plenary sitting of the House of Assembly.

London said he does not believe the result of the September 7 general election, in which the PNM won 23 seats to the PP’s 18, would undermine the Forum’s credibility.

“The self-government issue is not on the back burner and the self-government issue is not an issue that we are going to relax (on) because we happen to have a sympathetic government in Trinidad,” London said.

“In fact, we would have had discussions with the Prime Minister and we are preparing and we should be submitting within the next week to the Office of the Prime Minister the present position with respect to the Tobago position on self-government.”

The Chief Secretary, who is convener of the meetings of the Forum, said the group has done a lot of work on the issue and have set out the “demands of the people of Tobago” in the form of a draft bill and position paper, which was presented to the previous central government.

“We would have to make a determination how we go forward, who we would go forward with, what is the strategies etcetera,” the Chief Secretary added. “So I just want to indicate Mr Presiding Officer that that is well on the way. When we met with the Prime Minister he also had a view as to the way forward and even a timeline, which looks like the end of the year (2016), so we can look forward to some meaningful discussion.”

In addition to London, the Forum of Political Parties comprises Tobago Platform of Truth (TPT) leader Hochoy Charles and the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) chairman Neil Wilson.

Earlier this year, a team representing Tobago met with a central government team appointed by the former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to review the documents submitted by the Assembly. The Tobago team included London, Charles, the PNM’s Stanford Callender and Allan Richards, Convener of the Secretariat for Tobago’s Autonomy, with Gilbert Peterson, SC as adviser.

But discussions broke down after two meetings, following cancellation of the third meeting by the central government team. Subsequent requests for another meeting by the Tobago team were ignored.

On his recent visit to Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he hoped the joint select committee to be appointed to deal with the self-government issue would submit its report by the close of the first session of the current parliament in September.

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