Tobago’s Self-Government

Tobago House of Assembly.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is proposing a reconciliation committee between itself and the Central Government to deal with the issue of internal self-governance for Tobago. THA Chief Secretary Orville London is suggesting that Tobago name three to four members to the proposed committee and that Central Government does the same, with both parties agreeing on a chairman. London put the idea to Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar at last week’s second quarterly non-crisis meeting since the January THA elections.

London told media at the weekly post Executive Council media briefing that: “My recommendation to them is that the Tobago House of Assembly and the Central Government will each select three or four persons to a commission, a Reconciliation Committee, to reconcile the differences, and then together we’ll agree on a chairman. We will put before that committee the Bill which represents the views of the people of Tobago and the Bill which represents the views of the People’s Partnership.”

London indicated the committee would view each Bill and other relevant documentation, before creating one document which represents that reconciliation. “That document will then be taken to the Cabinet, to the Executive Council, to the people, and then of course, a Bill could then go to Parliament, a Bill which can then be debated.”

London said this approach was the best chance to resolve the ongoing issue and he would be sending a formal letter to the Prime Minister that lays out in greater detail how the process would work. London said despite the cordial environment of last week’s meeting with the Prime Minister, he was “somewhat troubled by the seeming posture of the Central Government with respect to the issue of internal self-government for Tobago.”

He said the issue was probably the most important one during the THA election period and that “both the PNM and TOP, and by extension their partners in the People’s Partnership indicated to Tobagonians that they were firmly committed to the idea of internal self-government for Tobago.” London indicated that commitments were made, climaxing in the presentation of Bills by the THA and People’s Partnership.

London also expressed concern that at the meeting the Prime Minister and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who’d accompanied her, “seemed to be intent on a course of action, which would see the Tobago House of Assembly Bill subsumed in the discussions for the National Constitutional Reform exercise.”

London said he was supportive of any process that led to a review of Trinidad and Tobago’s Constitution. “But I think all of us recognise that it is an unpredictable process fraught with all kinds of possibilities.”

He added in that context, the THA “could not afford, after we’ve reached this far, after we’ve gone this long, to allow our process, which is so close to completion, to be subsumed in this particular exercise.”

In addition, he will be sending the Prime Minister a list of the boards in which the Tobago House of Assembly should be represented.

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