Thursday, January 17, 2013

What the self government bill offers to Tobago - PM Kamla verbatim

The proposed constitutional change will modify the jurisdiction and authority of two organs of the State, namely, the Parliament and the Executive. It will limit the powers of the Parliament and the Cabinet vis-à-vis Tobago. 

I am advised that these significant constitutional changes require a 3/4 majority vote because it will modify the powers of the Parliament and the President.


By Clause 6, the Parliament is being asked to empower the Tobago House of Assembly to enact its own laws in respect of Tobago.
This power will be exercised through two ways. 

With respect to the first (the Tobago List), the Tobago House of Assembly will be able to legislate for Tobago in the same manner that this Parliament is able to legislate for Trinidad.

There would be a constitutional protection that laws may not be passed which are in conflict or inconsistent with laws enacted by the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago or any law in force before the coming into operation of the proposed amending Act.

Having regard to the fact that the power to enact laws would be given to the THA, we propose to demarcate two mutually exclusive constitutional and legal jurisdictions over which this Parliament and the THA will have the authority and power to make law.

The Executive Council of the Tobago House of Assembly will be given exclusive jurisdiction for matters set out in the Tobago List and the Executive Council shall be collectively responsible to the Assembly for the general direction and control of such policy in Tobago.

With respect to the second (the Concurrent List), the Tobago House of Assembly would have power to make laws for Tobago and the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago should have power to make laws exclusively for Trinidad.

This Concurrent list sets out the areas where both the THA and this Parliament can enact legislation.

The THA will not however have the power to pass any law that would violate the fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed to all citizens and enshrined in sections 4 and 5 of our Republic and Constitution.

Only the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, after consultation with the Tobago House of Assembly and with the requisite special majority, will have the power so to do.

Any law in force before the coming into effect of this proposed legislation and which relates to certain specified matters will continue to remain in force until such time as it is replaced by an Act passed by the Tobago House of Assembly.

Parliament would have exclusive power to make laws for Trinidad with respect to matters on the Tobago List and for Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the National List.


Under Clause 8, the powers of the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago will be curtailed in relation to Tobago. Cabinet will now be required to consult the Tobago House of Assembly on the formulation of policy in relation to matters set out in the Concurrent List.

The Cabinet will continue to retain its general direction and control of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and maintain its collective responsibility to the Parliament.

It will now however be legally obliged to hear and consider the views of the people of Tobago through their elected representatives.


We propose to stipulate a higher guaranteed budgetary appropriation for Tobago.

The present allocation is inadequate to meet the needs of the Tobago people.

It is high time that Tobago gets a bigger share of the economic pie that reflects the dept of the contribution made by Tobago to our National economy.

At present, the law allows for a budgetary allocation to Tobago of between 4.9 and 6% of the national budget.

We think that the present maximum which the law allows is not even fit to be the new minimum baseline figure.

We therefore propose in clause 10, an entirely new range that will not be less than 6.9%, nor more than 8%, of the national Budget.

For the first time ever, Tobago will have a constitutional guarantee for its budgetary allocation.

No Central Government in the history of this country has ever made such an ironclad guarantee to Tobago!


The jurisdiction of the Tobago House of Assembly in respect of these powers being conferred upon the Assembly will, by clause 11 in the proposed section 141F, extend for a distance of up to eleven nautical miles from the baselines of Tobago.

The current position under the THA Act is 6 miles.

This new definition of Tobago’s Maritime boundaries will give Tobagonians a sense of new physical and geographical identification with the island.

It will reinforce the Tobago pride and patriotic spirit that has served as an example to the rest of the Caribbean and the world.


It is imperative that any law making body have the necessary legal expertise. This is one of the reasons why the Attorney General is a member of this Parliament with special rights and privileges in both Houses.

There are many legal issues that affect the development of Tobago and hence, we propose, in clause 11, to mandate the appointment of a Secretary of Legal Affairs.

This person would be an attorney at law and ensure that the deliberations of the THA in the legislative process are in accordance with the rule of law.


No family, no organization, no island and indeed, no people can meaningfully progress and develop if they do not have access to finance.

The power of the THA to be able to borrow has been a bone of contention for quite some time.

No Government has had the political courage and fortitude to take the bull by the horns and grapple with this controversial but necessary issue that is so vital to the development of Tobago.

Tobago’s debts are indirectly linked and fed into the national debt of Trinidad and Tobago.

A delicate but practical balance must be struck. This calls for political responsibility and maturity.

Through its Secretary responsible for Finance, the THA will be granted a power to borrow up to 15% of its Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) allocation to Tobago for each financial year.

It is intended, however, that a limit on this borrowing power would be imposed (this is reflected in clause 11).

Once again, this is a constitutional first as the Tobago House of Assembly will now be given a constitutional guarantee to borrow a specified amount of its allocation under the PSIP, subject to a prescribed limit.


If the proposals in this Bill are accepted then the struggle to remove the shackles that have enslaved Tobago will be removed. Tobago will remain united with Trinidad without being handcuffed to it. We will be able to hold hands and aspire and achieve together.

This marathon journey has lasted several decades.

The Constitution is the supreme law of this land and it is fit and proper that the relationship between our two islands be enshrined in the Constitution.

This would give Tobago the Constitutional status and recognition that is deserves.

It will also rectify a legal anomaly that has existed since Independence by virtue of a conspicuous omission of this very important aspect of our twin island Republic from the Supreme law that governs both Tobago and Trinidad.

It will also protect the fruits of the long and hard struggle of the Tobago people by making it difficult for any Government to reverse or repeal these provisions as it would require a 2/3 majority in both houses of Parliament. 

By clause 7, we are entrenching these changes in the Constitution because it is the Supreme Law of Trinidad and Tobago as we believe Tobago’s relationship with Trinidad should be defined in our supreme and highest law.

To amend these changes would require a 2/3 majority vote of the Members of both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Having outlined the major changes that we seek to implement, permit me to now to deal with some of the criticisms that have been made by my friends on the opposite side about this Bill.


This Bill will revisit and revise the constitutional and political relationship between Tobago and Trinidad.

It seeks to inject new meaning and life into a wardship arranged by our colonial masters, but which left one island at the mercy of the other - for far too long.

At the same time, this Bill will rejuvenate and strengthen our union at a most critical juncture (as we celebrate 50 years of Independence) in the evolution of our beloved twin island Republic...
THA BILL 2013 

Following the proposed constitutional changes to empower Tobago that my Government is today seeking, a number of consequential amendments to the Tobago House of Assembly Act are necessary. Accordingly, the Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Bill, 2013 will at a later date, be laid before the House.

These amendments would set out procedural guidelines for the Assembly whilst also making certain consequential amendments.

The Bill would also seek to amend the terms of office of the Chief Secretary by providing that Chief Secretary shall serve more than two consecutive terms.

Amendments would also be proposed to clarify the functions of the Assembly and the functions of the Executive Council.
-PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar - From a speech in Parliament January 16, 2013

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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