Tobagonians have been told that their democracy is under threat.
This from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who claims the Tobago People’s Party (TPP), led by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, has promised the Tobago West and East seats to the Opposition United National Congress in the 2025 general elections.
Dr Rowley alleged that the agreement is being made as Augustine seeks the establishment of a Tobago legislature through the UNC.
Speaking at People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting in Mason Hall on Sunday night, the Prime Minister cited a proposal Augustine sent to all parliamentarians two years ago, during the debate of the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2021 and Tobago Island Government Bill, 2021. The document was also signed by former THA Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles.
In the letter, Augustine requested the creation of a bicameral structure which was recommended to provide for two separate assemblies. In the first of the two-chamber system, 15 assembly members, four councillors, a presiding officer and a president were to be elected. In the second, the chief secretary would be elected from a national vote. He or she would select the members of the executive council, except the deputy chief secretary, from outside of the other elected members of the assembly. The proposal also saw a request for eight per cent of the annual national budget and the establishment of the Tobago Service Commission to manage the public sector.
“If you people of Tobago are not careful, that is the bread that the devil is kneading and you are going to eat it if you are not careful,” Dr Rowley said, as he lamented that the recommendations were not the result of consultation on the island.
“The bills are still on the Parliament agenda because I ensured that they remain there just in case a miracle occurs and they change their mind, but they wouldn’t be there forever,” he continued.
Dr Rowley further noted that Government required a two-thirds majority to amend Section 75 of the Constitution, which speaks to the functioning of the Cabinet, which has the general direction and control of the Government. He called on the UNC to say where it stood in the matter.
“The UNC must tell us if they’re supporting the eight per cent, or the six per cent, or if they’re supporting the direct election of a chief secretary and he will appoint a cabinet in Tobago from unelected people. So, people of Tobago, do not play fowl eating corn soaked in rum because you could only get drunk and end up in the pot,” he quipped.