Tracy Davidson-Celestine, leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council, is welcoming the Progressive Democratic Patriots back to the negotiating table and is urging them to show maturity and fairplay.
In a statement this morning, she said “The PNM welcomes the PDP to the negotiation table. After consultation with its membership, the PNM is recommending a combination of suggestions from both parties in order to fully convene the Tobago House of Assembly with the election of a Presiding Officer, Chief Secretary and naming of councillors.’
Davidson Celestine said: “Tobagonians deserve good governance without the pain of adversity of a deadlock. We are happy we can start a serious conversation with the PDP on a way forward. Now is a time for maturity, civility, level headedness and fairplay.” The PNM is agreeing to work with all the key players to realise the passage of the Tobago Autonomy Bill by the Parliament and return to the people and polls under the new legislation.
“Should we have agreement with the PDP, we hope to have a working arrangement for six months or so – the length of time we expect it would take pass and enact the Self Government legislation. In the meantime, we get to flex our political minds to come up with some creative ways to govern.” the Political Leader said. The Tobago House of Assembly continues to stand dissolved, the previous Executive Council remains in place, a circumstance with which many Tobagonians are uncomfortable, although the law allows it.’
“We have a duty to recognise the 6-6 tie and give due consideration to sharing administration of the island between the PNM and the PDP. We must evolve with the process and the new demands of this impasse. We want to be fair to voters, and we must embrace the opportunity to work together under the current deadlock. We know that not everyone will understand and support the process. It is a new concept to most. We just want to ensure that this is done in a civil, fair and respectful manner.”
The Tobago PNM leadership pointed out that “It was only after the intervention of the Prime Minister that the PDP settled down and agreed to engage in serious discussions on the way forward. Prior to this, the PDP had demonstrated a level of inconsistency that did not augur well for the proper governance of this island. The PNM has been very consistent in its position that the most democratic way to resolve the situation is to return to the people and the polls.’
Davidson-Celestine again pressed for fresh elections: “We wish to do so at the earliest convenience, but we are convinced that the longer-term goal of achieving autonomy for Tobago must take precedence.”
She said the PNM expressed concern over some of the suggestions by the PDP over the breach some of the clauses in the Tobago House of Assembly Act 40.
“For example, the Act does not allow for equal sharing of councillors in the manner prescribed by the PDP, and the PDP draft MOU has not clearly indicated whether there is an intent on the part of the PDP to have a Minority Leader. We are hoping that we can work through the difference and hammer out a working arrangement.”
The PNM said in its combination of recommendations from each side proposes, among other things, that the PDP provide a candidate for the post of Deputy Chief Secretary, Deputy Presiding Officer, and be allocated four secretarial positions in THA Divisions and one councillor. It also recommends that the PNM will provide the candidate for Chief Secretary, Presiding Officer and hold four Secretarial Positions.
Davidson-Celestine added that the parties would need to meet and discuss other points which would be ‘ironed out’.