THE results of the last Tobago House of Assembly Elections resulted in a dramatic change of administration much to the delight of many, especially members and supporters of the PDP.
These results were also very sobering to the PNM which accepted the results, without question, as the Tobago Island Council of the PNM retired, in disappointment, to retool for continued committed service in the interest of the people of Tobago.
In the midst of all the drama, under Section 75 of the Constitution, there remains a Central Government of Trinidad and Tobago with responsibility for the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago with full recognition of the existence of the Tobago House of Assembly and its authority and privileges enshrined within the Tobago House of Assembly Act. A proper understanding and acceptance of these laws and authorities are vital if the expected good day-to-day relationship between the citizens of these islands is to be preserved and fostered.
It is against this background that, even as the heady celebrations of the 14 PDP -1 PNM, were underway the Central Government, immediately requested to meet with the new, and I daresay very inexperienced incoming officers of the new PDP administration.
This very important inaugural contact took place at the Blenheim House, Tobago, and involved a strong THA delegation of secretaries and a large team of ministers, including the prime minister, the attorney general and other key ministers. The purpose of this meeting was to ensure maximum assistance to the incoming administration in order to ensure that the business of the people of Tobago would continue smoothly and effectively. To this end, we all witnessed a very successful outcome in matters of administration. The same cannot be said for the mandate, the politics and the anticipation of the electorate.
During the election campaign which brought the PDP into office so spectacularly, a number of very weighty issues and specific governmental actions, local and national were up for adjudication by the Tobago electorate which handed a decisive decision to the PDP to act on these matters, as proffered, with the support of the majority of the Tobago electorate in keeping with commitments advanced by the PDP. This is the acquired mandate.
In full public view, the elected members of the PDP, through a series of expulsions and withdrawals have created a situation where the business of the Executive of the Tobago House of Assembly, has ended up in the hands of a self-serving group of independents, who, while under no legal requirement to resign their positions, have no mandate from the people of Tobago.
A brand new political party is now spawned with the intention to take its place within the walls of the THA. Should this occur without an election this resultant Executive authority without reference to the Tobago electorate would run counter to the espoused lofty “principles” being espoused, of nurturing democracy from the ground up when it is time to form a party but dispense with the basic tenets “for the people by the people” democracy when it is time to hold on to office to the exclusion of the electorate.
If the independent political aspirants of the disintegrated PDP wish to be taken seriously by the Central Government and the people of Tobago then the Chief Secretary would do well to make arrangements for an early election within the same time frame that he is making to register a NEW political party with the Elections and Boundaries Commission.
The behaviour of the current Executive in matters of governance even at this confused stage should be of great concern to the national population. I, as head of the Central Government refer specifically to the following acts perpetrated by officers of the Assembly under their warped interpretation of the country’s Constitution and the Tobago House of Assembly Act;-
1. The Secretary of Infrastructure acting with flagrant disregard of the EMA Act;
2. The Chief Secretary publicly supporting the illegal action of the Department of Infrastructure on the grounds that the EMA Act does not apply in Tobago, and it is the THA that gives instructions to the EMA which that agency must follow;
3. The filing of a Motion in the Assembly, by the Chief Secretary, with the purported aim of encouraging the constant and repeated breach of the EMA Act, in willful disregard of the law;
4. The childish wanton attack on officers of the Transport Department of Trinidad and Tobago in the discharge of their duty in Tobago; and
5. The demand by the Secretary of Infrastructure and Transport, that Licensing Officers from Trinidad not be allowed to function in Tobago.
These and other similar developments known, but not mentioned here, are deliberately laying the groundwork for an anticipated period of unnecessary, unproductive discord and numerous expensive and destructive outings to the Court for adjudication, clarification and more.
Whilst we have been doing and will continue to do everything within our means to make sure that at the level of the Central Government, everything is done to give Tobago every opportunity to benefit from good order and good governance it is also to be expected that the Central Government will continue to persuade the THA to respect the limits of its authority and act within the confines of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. The political aspirants would do well to begin this humbling process by subjecting themselves to the electorate before it is too late.
The peace, good order and continued progress of the people of Tobago are at stake and demand no less.
Dr Keith Rowley is the MP for Diego Martin West and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He sent this op-ed to the media and AZP News used it in our Commentary Section.