The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has agreed to participate in discussions leading up to the appointment of a Constitution Commission.
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Colin Partap wrote THA Chief Secretary Orville London requesting a meeting with him and members of the Assembly. The Minister said as part of its policy framework it was Government’s intention to re-assess the framework of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago through a Commission.
Partap said when established the Commission, as part of its terms of reference would engage in the widest possible consultation as a pre-requisite to Constitutional Reform. “The Commission will also observe the principle that the Constitution should emerge out of the collective aspirations, will and judgement of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
He told London that the meeting was to gain an insight into his vision for Trinidad and Tobago and to hear his views and recommendations to assist in developing the terms of reference for the Commission as well as nomination of possible candidates to be considered for the Commission.
In response, London told Partap that the Assembly was supportive of the principle and welcomed the opportunity to share relevant views and recommendations with the representatives of the Office of the Prime Minister on this critical issue.
However, London told reporters at a post Executive Council media briefing on Friday that the Assembly did not want the current THA process being undertaken by the John Prince Working Committee on amendments to the THA Act No 40 of 1996 and those aspects of the Constitution on Tobago “to be inextricably linked to this process that we can find that we are sidetracked or frustrated in achieving our objective”.
“I just want to make it very clear that the THA is supportive of any process that leads to a review and reform of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, but the THA like all of us will be aware that this is not a predictable process. There are so many issues involved in the reform of a Constitution that one does not really know whether it is going to take months or years or decades,” he said.
London said the Assembly would want to continue on the same path in which it was engaged for the last couple years where only those aspects of the Constitution that will allow Tobago to achieve its objective in relationship to the review of the THA Act. He added: “I think if we do that we can get the best of both worlds, have the Tobago situation treated and yet get involve in the general discussion without allowing that general discussion to frustrate the aspirations of the people of Tobago.”
He said the Assembly recognised the challenges of changing a Constitution of a country, adding that the Tobago situation was so critical and much less complex and in those circumstances it was in the island’s interest to have the two things run parallel. He said if neither party had ulterior motives then he don’t see any reason why it cannot work. “In other words if both the Central Government and the THA are in a position where they want Tobago’s aspirations for increased autonomy to be realised we can have this running parallel because obviously, the THA is likely to be resolved before, so what in fact you will be doing is amending an amended Constitution and there is nothing wrong with that. The challenge will come if there is some ulterior motive,” London said.