Thursday, January 17, 2013

PM presents Tobago self government bill; praises Robinson and slams PNM neglect

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday made a strong case in defence of her government's proposed legislation for Tobago's self government, while at the same time slamming the opposition People's National Movement (PNM) and its leader, Keith Rowley, for not caring about Tobago.

In a lengthy address to Parliament she credited A.N.R. Robinson, whom she visited before attending Parliament, for beginning the journey to self government when he was a Tobago MP.
"That torch for the political liberation for Tobago was lit in this very Parliament by the then Member for Tobago East Mr. ANR Robinson," she said. 

"His passion and love for the Tobago people has been a source of tremendous inspiration and provided the courage for this Government to do what is right.
Indeed, I consider it an honour to take that baton and run this important leg of that marathon journey," she added.

Persad-Bissessasr added that what Robinson spoke about in 1977 remains relevant today. She quoted from Hansard to show Robinson's passion for Tobago:

"This is not secession, sedition or separation; it is rather a matter of historical justice. It is consistent with contemporary notions of human rights and it accords with would continue to be on the national agenda until - with the help of Almighty God - justice and internal self government are brought to the people of the island of Tobago”

The Prime Minister said although Robinson's motion was adopted with amendments no further progress to self government was made under the PNM.

She called the introduction of the legislation the fulfillment of a manifesto pledge and a promise to the leader of her coalition partner, Ashworth Jack.

"I therefore consider it my sacred duty to deliver on the promise made to the leader of the Tobago Organization of the People...and our brothers and sisters in Tobago."
She added, "It is therefore with great pride, I pilot this Bill, which will give Tobago constitutional equality, dignity, autonomy and give the people of Tobago a meaningful identity. 

"We are ready today, only after major efforts involving extensive consultation, dialogue, preparation and revision of proposals."

She outlined the consultation process and addressed the PNM views that it is inappropriate to introduce legislation when an election campaign is in progress, noting that it has happened before.

"We had a great debate about internal self-government for Tobago in the shadow of the 1996 THA election and I see no reason why we should not have another one in 2013.

"My Government has ensured that all of the ingredients for a great debate about internal self-government during an election campaign have once more been laid out so that the electorate of Tobago can get the views of those who wish to govern them, but so far only the Tobago Organization of the People (TOP) has risen to the challenge," she said. 

She added that the PNM announced even before seeing the legislation that it would not support it. "They really have nothing to offer the people of Tobago, only vacuous negative language and misinformation," she said.  "I am of the firm conviction that the electorate of Tobago is entitled and indeed want to hear all views."

Persad-Bissessar said in 1996 the PNM grudgingly supported the bill with its then leader stating that he was "forced" to do it. She said, "In 1996 they had no objections or problems, yet seventeen years later, before the debate on this most important issue, they have bluntly stated they will not support the Bill."

She challenged the PNM to support the government on the legislation. "We need the PNM to vote with our MPs in this House to make this happen for the people of Tobago...Our promise to Tobago has been kept.

"The Bill has been laid prior to the THA election and the decision will be made in the Parliament after the election.

"I am asking the Leader of the Opposition to reconsider his position and join me in moving forward the cause of internal self-government for the people of Tobago.

"I am asking the current but outgoing Chief Secretary of the THA, Mr. Orville London, to support this Bill so that Tobago will get what we promised in May 2010 and what he continues to say he reinforces," she declared.  

The Prime Minister advised legislators that the bill would go to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament for further examination before a vote is taken. However, in his presentation to the opposition leader Keith Rowley made it clear that his party will not support it. 

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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