The non-partisan group, Tobago Civil Society Network (CivilNET) has issued a plea to the Joint Select Committee (JSC), not to submit their recommendations on Tobago’s autonomy to Parliament by May 31, 2021.
The JSC has been responsible for drafting Tobago’s autonomy bills, and CivilNET said some aspects of the two drafts, such as the increased annual allocation to Tobago and its fiscal and legislative authority, are steps in the right direction.
The JSC draft autonomy bills also contain proposals for the island to be run by a legislature headed by the president and 15 elected Assemblymen. It also includes an Executive Council headed by a Premier.
Network leader, businesswoman Shirley Cooke, during a virtual media conference on Thursday, said the bills are not in keeping with the premise of the island’s autonomy and deny Tobago equitable status and the right to self-determination.
She said “These (2020) bills have raised grave concerns…and do not contain a Bill of Rights and places governance of Tobago in a Constitution controlled by Trinidad.”
The organisation is of the view that the 2016 and 2018 drafts sent to Parliament are more representative of the way forward for the island’s autonomy.
She said the network wants Tobago’s 12 elected Assemblymen to lead the new thrust to have Tobagonians’ wishes reflected in the bills.
CivilNET member, former UWI member Dr Winford James, said the association will “come up with an alternative to the ones that we have seen in the drafts.”