Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tobago self government bill goes to Parliament Jan. 7; debate begins Jan. 16

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced on Sunday that the Bill to provide for the Internal Self Government of Tobago would be introduced in the Parliament on Monday January 7, 2013 and debate would begin on January 16, 2013. 

She made the pledge in Tobago in a speech at political rally of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) at which the party presented its candidates for the January 21, 2013 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.

She also called on the opposition People's National Movement (PNM) to support the bill, which requires a special majority. She stated that every one of the 29 members of the People's Partnership would support it.

Persad-Bissessar said introducing the legislation is the fulfillment of a promise made to the people of Tobago in the People's Partnership 2010 election manifesto, which has now become government policy.

She told her audience one of the reasons for TOP joining the partnership was because of a promise to ensure that Tobago would be treated equally and  respectfully.

The Prime Minister noted that a first draft of the bill was prepared as far back as 2011 but the government delayed implementation because it wanted to hear the views of citizens, particularly those in Tobago.

A green paper on self government was subsequently produced and circulated widely for public comment, followed by at least a dozen hearings by an expert team headed by Dr Hamid Ghany of the University of the West Indies.

She said the draft bill going to Parliament has been prepared taking into account the views received. It seeks to amend the Constitution to enhance the legislative and executive powers of the THA with a view to promoting the internal self-government of Tobago.

The Bill would alter sections 5 and 53 of the Constitution and would therefore need to be passed by a special majority of two-thirds of all the members of each House of Parliament.

The bill would give the THA for the first time the power to pass laws to deal with matters set out in a Concurrent List, such as:

  • Legal Affairs, including the registration of Legal documents
  • Tertiary Education
  • Energy and Energy Affairs
  • Customs and Excise
  • Public Infrastructure, including Roads and Bridges

She noted that in formulating policy for matters in the Concurrent List, Cabinet must consult with the THA. This, she said, effectively limits the powers of Parliament in relation to making laws for Tobago.

There are other significant benefits for Tobago. One of them is a substantial increase in the amount of money the central government must provide to Tobago. The Prime Minister noted that under the present arrangement Tobago gets between four and six per cent of the national budget. She said this would increase to eight per cent, with a minimum allocation of 6.9 per cent.

In addition the THA would have the power to pass a Bill to make laws for Tobago with respect to matters on the Tobago List, including:

  • Fisheries
  • Housing
  • Consumer Affairs
  • Culture and Arts
  • Internal Security
  • Tourism
There would also be a Secretary for Legal Matters in the THA.

Tobago would also get the right to borrow up to 25 per cent of the sum allocated per year to the THA under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP), without the approval of Parliament. It would also enjoy access to its marine boundaries from its present six nautical miles to 11 nautical miles from the baselines of Tobago.

Persad-Bissessar said the introduction of the bill in Parliament is evidence that her government has not been "sleeping on the job" and that it has kept its promise to the TOP and the people of Tobago.

She added that it is a clear sign that the PNM propaganda of an imminent Trinidad "invasion" of Tobago if TOP wins is without merit.

The Prime Minister added that she does not expect the PNM to "support such progressive pieces of legislation, given their history of trifling with this country".

She added, "The fact is, in the almost half a century that the PNM ruled this country, they did precious little for the people of Tobago" and quoted former PM A.N.R. Robinson from Hansard of November 8, 1996 to make her point.

This is what Robinson said: "They (the PNM) would never understand that economic policies and relationships are more fundamental to human existence and well-being than political affiliation, (for things like) goods, transport of goods, prices, the capacity to move from one island to another in a unitary state mean very much (more) to the ordinary Tobagonian than any Trinidadian not living in Tobago can imagine.” 

Persad-Bissessar added, "When the bill is debated in Parliament, I hope London and London and company would tell their leader Mr. Rowley to give their support to these Bills in the interest of Tobago."

Commenting on the THA election she said TOP and its leader, Ashworth Jack, have a vision for self-determination and economic development for Tobago while the Rowley/London PNM has tried to divert and distract citizens from the real issues.

She said, "Today I want to tell London and Rowley that this election is not about the House of Jack; this election is about the House of Assembly of Tobago!

"The failed PNM leader, unable to build his Trinidad wing is holding on to dear life hoping that the Tobago people will put God out of their thoughts and vote for London and London and company.

"Mr. Rowley wants you to feel that the Tobago PNM is different from the Trinidad PNM.

"But they cannot be different since waste, mismanagement, corruption and nepotism defines the PNM in Trinidad, in Tobago or anywhere else in the world they rear their head."

She also chastised Rowley for what she called his attempts at undermining the Parliament to pursue his narrow political ends.

"Having been humiliated in the nation’s parliament Mr. Rowley is now seeking to undermine the Parliament by taking issues from the parliament to the President and bringing the Office of the President into disrepute," she declared in respect to the section 34 matter.

"Instead of coming to the Parliament like all former distinguished opposition leaders he seeks to hide behind the President, urging the President to save his political skin.
"Mr. Rowley is therefore undermining the Parliament and bringing the Office of the President into disrepute...this desperate brand of politics is not unusual from a desperate leader." 

She also raised the issue of the Tobago PNM's campaign slogan, Standing in Defence of Tobago and asked what it is they are defending the island against.

She suggested that Tobago needs defending from the PNM. "
They cannot defend their own track records of spending over $ 17 billion and having precious little to show; they cannot defend their reckless actions and omissions that has brought the critical tourism industry on its knees; they cannot defend Milserv; they cannot defend the corruption involving the yet to be built aquatic center. Even before a post go up; they have already been accused of corruption. 

"This is what they want to perpetuate, a small PNM clique of family members with unlimited and unbridled access to the funds at the THA – London, London and company."

The Prime Minister concluded her hour-long speech by declaring that T&T must remain ONE FAMILY with ONE DESTINATION and that Tobago must always be an equal partner.

"No one must divide T&T in their own selfish political interests," she said. She urged Tobagonians to vote for the TOP team because TOP is the only party that truly represents Tobago and the interests of every Tobagonian.

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai