Give Tobago full independence

By Raffique Shah
April 25, 2018

Raffique ShahI’ve had it up to here (Shah motions his right palm one inch above his five-foot, six-and-a-half-inches-frame) with the cantankerous complainers from the island of Tobago who, seemingly every day, appear on multiple media forums to cuss Trinidadians in general, and the Government in particular, for failing to provide them with heavily subsidised services, be it ferry or air transport, medical or education facilities.

With apologies to my many Tobagonian friends who are not to be categorised with the aforementioned ingrates, do you know what it’s like to wake up on mornings, switch on your television or radio, and be assaulted by vitriol from Watson “To-bear-go” Duke on one channel, a fulminating business-woman Diane Hadad on another, and sundry others every which way you click?

It’s audio-visual torture.

Over the past year, Tobagonians have justifiably complained about the virtual collapse of the sea-bridge, a disaster for which the Keith Rowley administration must be blamed, whoever or whatever may have actually caused the debacle. There can be no explanation for The Warrior Spirit spending nine months under major repairs-and still emerging with defects, except, perhaps, that the job was given to a quack. Nor can there be explanations for the T&T Express being run aground, almost literally, until it was forced onto the dry-dock.

But the griping continues even as the refurbished Warrior Spirit returns to service, and the new Galleon Passage is on its way (knock water!) to join the fleet. The national airline performed admirably during the crisis to help ease the situation, flying passengers almost for free between the islands, only to face unwarranted criticisms.

I know the culprits will say they need to travel to Trinidad for goods and essential services that they cannot access in Tobago, and people like me could talk, or write, because we don’t face the horrors they do. I concede they are partly correct. I however argue that in large measure, Tobagonians are architects of their own over-dependence on Trinidad.

What does Tobago produce that can be quantified as its contribution to the country’s (Trinidad & Tobago) gross domestic product? Once upon a time, before the island descended into a URP-like syndrome, its farmers cultivated crops such as vegetables, ground provisions, fruits and legumes, and reared livestock that yielded dairy products and meats, all of which partly met its local requirements, with the surplus exported to Trinidad.

For many years now, food production has declined to negligible quantities. In fact, one Tobago Chamber spokesperson, complaining about the effects of the sea-bridge collapse, said it negatively impacted the island’s regular supply of perishable agricultural produce from Trinidad!

Its main source of revenue comes from tourism. But when last did Tobago attract large numbers of international visitors? The answer to this question varies, depending on who you ask. Hoteliers claim their occupancy rates are down to as low as 35 percent. The Tobago House of Assembly’s Secretary for Tourism, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, said in March 2016 that annual arrivals had risen to 590,000, but that included Trinidadians, who, before the local economy nose-dived and the sea-bridge collapsed, comprised the bulk of visitors, hence negligible foreign exchange.

What is certain is that Tobago has not benefitted from unprecedented growth in Caribbean tourism, which saw stay-over arrivals surpass 29 million for the first time in 2016, and visitor spend top US $35.5 billion (according to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation). Note that this surge started before the sea-bridge collapse.

Tobago is costlier than most other Caribbean destinations, service is poor, its airport terminal is primitive, and because it is guaranteed substantial budgetary support from the Central Government (approximately $5 billion annually), why waste time wooing tourists?

So whatever Duke, Hadad and others may mouth off on, casting full blame on Port of Spain and Trinidad, the harsh reality is that besides “bene balls” and an annual goat race, Tobago has very little to add to T&T’s GDP, and a whole lot to subtract from it.

Which is why I propose we give Tobago full independence. And I insist that we be very considerate in letting them paddle their own boat, no pun intended.

For example, we give them, for free, the three ferries, one new, two fully refurbished, letting them take charge of the inter-islands service. Give them, too, all five ATR prop-jets from the Caribbean Airlines fleet, and throw in a Boeing 737 as a bonus. Give them, too, the State’s stake in the Magdalena hotel (but we do not invest in Sandals), the Cove Estate complete with the new power plant, and other real estate and fixed assets we may have there.

Also, we commit ourselves to continue funding a now-independent Tobago at the current level (four percent of annual budgetary expenditure) for, say, three years. Thereafter, the subvention is reduced, and cut completely in six years. To be fair to Tobagonians, and to make independence more attractive, for any oil or gas deemed to come from their territorial waters based on international maritime boundaries, we pay them well-head prices.

The above arrangements are far, far superior to what Britain gave T&T when it granted us independence in 1962.

I’m sure Prime-Minister-in-waiting, Watson Duke, must be drooling over the spoils of office, and other leaders who feel they can restore paradise are licking their chops.

So am I, and, I imagine, most Trinis: not having to wake up with Watson barking inside our homes is priceless.

25 thoughts on “Give Tobago full independence”

  1. Lieutenant, I agree fully with you, except you might be giving them a little much.Too many Tobagonians are parasites.

  2. Tobago is a drain on the treasury. Since the PNM took over Tobago, they have infected the population with racism and built a culture of cultism and dependency. So much so, the UNC would not bother fighting an election in Tobago. Everybody knows the fastest way to become a multimillionaire is to join the Tobago house of assembly where billions vanish with no accountability. Why? Because the money flows like water from Trinidad. And once it reaches Tobago it is now Tobago business. Infighting politics die a long time ago due to the heavy inbreeding on the island where everyone is related. And you don’t tell on your family. All the aforementioned is reason enough to break this one sided relationship.

    Tobagonians jumped every boat, plane and dingy to go home from Trinidad and vote in the last Tobago House of Assembly election. The locals were shocked to see all these people from Trinidad lining up at the polling boot, to cast their ballot for the red and ready. One will be surprise that it only Duke and a few others galavanting for Tobagonians. As Ayana proudly stated, “Tobagonians not suffering”. And why would they when the current PM is from Tobago. He will increase the subventions for Tobago.

    The time has come to cut the cord that bind TNT together…..

    1. Yes for you and yours to use your built up wealth from greed to grab most of the land there as you claim you are fed up here. God always take care of fools.

  3. The configuration that is being proffered to Tobago under Bill No 5 of 208 is a huge disappointment because there is vertical density of Government instead meaningful extension of the range of self-governance to include jurisdiction over a large area of the marine space seaward of Tobago. Nothing has changed -only several layers of useless government institutions sapping the human resource from developing the patrimony of Tobago. Independence to Tobago is not the way forward. Let them harvest their own resources on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago. Empower these people to run their own affairs- not stymie them into a jacket and tie syndrome. Tobagonians must get up and get and not wait on handouts. The ground yields bountifully and so does the sea and the continental shelf. The Tobago Bill must go back to the people of T&T for a referendum because the people are sovereign and Parliament subservient to the wishes of the people. Parliament cannot amend the constitution unless the people has spoken with clarity about the way forward. It is not exclusively the business of Parliament to undertake fundamental change of the 1976 Constitution using a back door from Tobago.


      Wow, the deal must be going well.

  4. Shah jest expressing creative liberty, TnT r the jewels of the Caribbean, no way, no day never happen! Our people knows best!

  5. Give Indesh Independence! (South of the Caroni & Oropuna River to Soldado Rock Maritime boundary on the island of Iere).

    Sita Ram,

    We would like to better use our natural resources than have the POS Frederick Street Vagrant Olympic swimming competition and the pasty wrinkle bottom bay leaf, sesame oil and rotten beef smelling cartel misuse the Billions of dollars in revenue and spend it on vitriolic bards of the Kaiso ilk to berate our countrymen and women. or have the cartel misspend it on unfinished tenements buildings that flooding every time it rains.

    Indesh citizens have grown tired of the bigotry and baboonish behaviour expressed by Government officials who forget they are working for us and our interests.

    Tobago is a floating turd that needs to be set free. Fast food workers should be labelled slow food workers. Indesh citizens back this move for Tobagonians and their ability to work in slow motion and look forward to Mr. Duke falling asleep at the wheel and Tobago Tourism going down the toilet.

    Secession of Indesh is a must and it’s sovereignty recognized by the United Nations.

    Any visiting foreigner will be given a Indesh Garland and all Indesh residents, Profit Mohomeddians and Pennycostals and Purple T-shirts will perform Ghar Wapsi 108 times until it stick.

    Business will be conducted in golds and silver teeth caps and Hilux vehicles,

    ₹1 Indesh Gold Tooth = $724.21 Trinidad and Tobago Dollar.
    ₹1 Indesh Silver Tooth = $11.04 Trinidad and Tobago Dollar.
    ₹2 Indesh Hilux Lakh = $250,000.00 Trinidad and Tobago Dollar.

    Indesh’s main export will be Cassava and Yam and Technology.

    Our National birds the Egret and Parrot.

    Our National Flower the Ixora

    Our National dish roti and doubles.

    Our statue of liberty Hanuman.

    Our National MOTTO “Truth alone triumphs”

    Jai Indesh! Ko Jai!

  6. I, as a long time Tobago resident, agree with the independence of the island. Although I would like it for a different reason. The subsidies are not only given to Tobago but to all of Tobago and Trinidad. I believe that those subsidies should be stopped. The public transportation subsidies are not only for the ferries to Tobago but also the ferries to San Fernando and the PTSC buses to every part of the twin island republic. Those subsidies also go to TSTT, T&TEC, etc.

    I believe that Tobago should be granted independence because they should be managing their own economy. Tobago would not have to pay the ridiculous duties charged by Trinidad for importing items and then having the items imported to Tobago first go through Trinidad and then have additional cost for ferring those items to Tobago. If Trinidadians want to come to Tobago or fly to any other country they should not be flying on subsidized CAL. For us in Tobago competition for CAL would be a welcomed opportunity.

    Remember if someone in Trinidad flys through Tobago, on the sunday flight, pays the same as someone flying out of Tobago. But someone flying out of Tobago through Trinidad to any destination has to pay an additional cost, Tobago to Trinidad, that residents of Trinidad does not pay. Where is the EOC on this, or they only take up things that affects residents of Trinidad.

  7. YOU REALLY THINK THEY WILL SURVIVE? They do not know squat about Independence. From Robbery to *** pam to the current bull dog they are all were/are in it for themselves. Ask the Khans in Diego Martin about the gated community and the grab for land next to them as HDC head back then and….Landate. The black man gets up and pushes down on his own people (sells them back into slavery to the whites). This is still so today (the oil and gas TT industry has come and gone leaving most of us penniless of course with over 50 years of PNM black rule). CONNECT THE DOTS. Yes the white like Trump is guilty but we own, handed them TT on a platter and are still doing so. The Norweigans crippled me in my own country and lied to the legal system and bought me out taking nearly one million of my retirement savings as the exposure of 50 million USD eeked out of the Tringen 11 Plant by Northern Construction boss Ish was really boldfaced thiefing by them and the UNC and the IFC of IMF fame. Could I fight all those biggies….NO. But one day a young lawyer will take my case on pro bono outside Trinidad and will spill the beans. GOD DOH SLEEP. My severence was 1.3 million and these Norweigans who hate black peoples of the world from USA to Africa, India are in my country ripping it off, raking in millions in USD , operating in Bruessels ( I and you,cannot even pass through there due to its expenses )but our tax monies are there for the taking Shah. They destroyed the competitive nature of the three plants there in TT, buying cheapness any which way and running each equipment beyond their designs max. Onstream time factors in TT are lowest in the world. They are doing what they want under our noses. I did not even got my NIB injury benefit in 2006. I am injured for life. BUT I STILL SAY GOD DOH SLEEP. Tobagonians were kept in slavery more than three hundred years now….Sir Hilary Beckles does not talk about that though. What beats me is why does black people not open their eyes and see the truth…you know to understand and act against who is keeping them down all these years. The people are there in TT in front of their faces. WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT NOT REVEAL THE NATURAL GAS PRICE? Because the distribution system of natural gas was badly designed just as the GAS TO LIQUIDS Plant in Petrotrin and because the foreigners can sue for millions against a fuel source that is highly contaminated, we trinis are losing our sustainance or good life based on proven resources we own. In the natural gas TT system HYDROCARBON LIQUIDS are messing up the system big time even shutting down the electrical system every so often. The Pheonix Park Plant was to cure the ills, put there by Conoco, a GAS TO LIQUIDS Plant expert with Conooco getting all the valuable liquid for years even with the ESD plant (at Point LIsas) being up and down and run down for years. The PNM made their money on that. It was theirs to hire whom they wanted to run it. We were played over the years while they piled up defenses to keep them in power. Bas and Kam are two big jokers.

  8. Even all these words doesn’t make squat true, work for God, always, all that positive energy of our people waiting to be tap and make $$! Ah sweet life!

    1. Thats the problem with the Indo tribes that now feel they reach. You continue sucking up with big car and house and wife who cah take you on after a few good years.

  9. A certain group of keen land grabbers in Trinidad who has “money to throw way” finances would love Independence to Tobago. They are waiting in the wings for this to happen. Tobagonians should be weary of this. This group has their lawyers in place that are trained for this. I guess PNM is in no hurry to regularise the broken legal land records system in TT. I understand it is in a complete mess influenced so by this group who has ulterior motives. Again God doh sleep. We need to keep praying to avert this situation with this evil group that would not leave our country alone. This group whose God is money or material gain like land grabbing has been a menace to us since the 1970s oil wealth to them in this country.

    1. Man too much bitterness, u breathing God’s free air, do the work and share joy in others success and happiness. Try dat nah!

      1. you know provocation is only against the law but is a great sin. But you can continue to provoke while you hide your identity as a plain coward like you God despises BIG TIME. God doh sleep my friend and HE sees and knows us all.

        1. You are one of those I know benefiting from poor PNM ways and you are laughing all the way to the bank. But those pages of life will turn one day sooner than you think.

  10. There is no doubt in my mind that the frustrations that Raff has enunciated is a reflection of how we have digressed in terms of our development in Trinidad and Tobago. Watson Duke definitely does not make it any better BUT the responses from the ‘Caroni group’ is more telling. I concur with cacaholio that after giving independence to Tobago we should have as our national dish roti and doubles; Our statue of liberty Hanuman; our national religion should be hindu; our national language should be hindi;
    bring back the previous Governor of the cCentral bank; make Dhulalchan Commissioner of Police; give back the prime ministership to make Kamla; change our capital to Debe; the god we worship should have multiple hands and our national color should be yellow or orange. Oh what a wonderful country this would be!!!!!!!!

    1. The national dish is already roti and doubles, internationally known.

      We never had a statue of liberty; don’t confuse us with the Divided States of America.

      Its a good idea to introduce Hindi as a school subject, considering that Indians are the largest minority group in T&T. Learning multiple languages is educationally enriching.

      Actually, the previous Governor of the Central bank was doing a better job than the present political appointee.

      Maybe Dhulalchan might do a better job as Commissioner of Police since the present perpetual Acting clown cannot seem to solve or monitor crime.

      Giving back the Prime Minister ship to Kamla just might end the endless streak of incompetence from every government minister and from the PM himself.

      Actually, making Debe the Capital is a splendid idea, since Port of Spain is a depreciating cesspool of garbage and crime.

      Changing the national colors to yellow and orange could signal new beginnings and signal the end of our failed nation.

      Yes It would indeed be a more wonderful country respected all over the world.

      Thanks for the suggestions!

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