Sunday, January 6, 2013

From the archives - Deja vu on Tobago self Government?

In 1996 the People's National Movement (PNM) was the party in opposition with Basdeo Panday as Prime Minister and A.N.R Robinson a senior member of cabinet.

The Parliamentary debate on the constitutional amendment for Tobago and the THA Act that was piloted by Robinson on 25 November, 1996 began just days before the elections for the THA on December 9.

Two senators had resigned - Deborah Moore-Miggins (NAR), who had formed the People's Empowerment Party (PEP), and Orville London, who contested the Scarborough/Signal Hill seat and lost to Judy Bobb by a margin of 532 to 528 votes. 

The debate concluded in the House on 26 November. The PNM supported both the Constitution Amendment Bill, and the new Tobago House of Assembly Bill.

From the official HANSARD

Constitution (Amdt.) Bill
Monday, November 25, 1996

Mr. Patrick Manning (San Fernando East): Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. Member for Tobago East on the conciliatory approach that he has taken to this debate this morning. Let me assure hon. Members opposite that we on this side have come to this Parliament this morning with exactly the same approach, one of conciliation.

Mr. Speaker, we know of the difficult position in which the Government has placed itself, in that the Tobago House of Assembly election has been called, nomination day has passed and the election will be held on December 9, 1996. In the main political party, there is more than a small amount of confusion. In the Parliament itself, one Senator who has resigned over the question of consultation, now finds herself as an independent candidate in the election and former members of the Assembly have taken a position that is antagonistically held by the political party of which they were once a party. In terms of the election results of 1995, Mr. Speaker, a certain amount of apathy is evident by the views of a repressed poll in Tobago and it demonstrates that there is dissatisfaction which is fairly widespread and the political fortunes of the PNM of Tobago seems to be on the rise. [Desk thumping from the PNM Benches.] That is the atmosphere and the situation that prevails in Tobago today.

It is in that context that the Government introduced this piece of legislation with which the Opposition has difficulties and the Opposition has stated its difficulties. If we come to the Parliament today and we vote against the legislation, which is what the hon. Member for Tobago East is hoping for, they then go to Tobago and put it to the people of Tobago that the PNM does not want them to have this and by doing that, the PNM scuttles. The Government has put us between a rock and a hard place. That is what the Government has done.

Miss Nicholson: You had the opportunity to deal with it.

Mr. P. Manning: On two occasions within the recent past, we have had an opportunity to speak on the issues involved in the legislation before us. The approach of the Opposition is that we want to co-operate with the Government on that matter.

Miss Nicholson: I will be so pleased.

Mr. P. Manning: The hon. Member for Tobago East speaks about the insecurity that a smaller island feels about the unity with a larger island. I want to assure him and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago that it was an appreciation of that that caused the then prime minister in 1992, in addressing the House of Assembly, to make constitutional guarantees for the Tobago House of Assembly with which they had absolutely no difficulties. We have no difficulty with that.

10.20 a.m.
I have no difficulty with the principle of greater autonomy for the people of Tobago. If they force us to vote for it, we might just do that. You see, all we are asking is to let good sense prevail; let us not engage in the political cut and thrust on this matter which is normal in debates in this Parliament. What we are asking is that we proceed to committee on this Bill as expeditiously as possible and let us, as rational Members of Parliament, sit in committee and see whether we could not hammer out some kind of agreement that is acceptable to both sides, which is what the electorate expect us to do, in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago.

I am not going into the details of the Bill. There are others on our side who are in a position to do so, but I thought that I should merely set the tone and let this Government know of the attitude of the Opposition on this critical issue and to urge that they meet us half-way and that we meet in committee and we try to hammer out some kind of arrangement that is acceptable to both sides.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

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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