By Stephen Kangal
July 25, 2021
The ill-advised, overtly hurried and premature introduction into Parliament of the two completely new Bills on June 28 last on the long-festering granting of autonomy/self-governance to Tobago prior to and without conducting the requisite inter-active consultations with the Tobago constituency of principal stakeholders by the PNM was a deliberate, deceptive, nefarious, dishonest and calculated politically -conceptualised strategy to shelve the Tobago issue.
After all the sound and fury and grand-charging it signified a waste of Parliament’s time.
It was premised on and driven by the expected and orchestrated failure of the Bills to obtain the requisite three-quarters/two-thirds majority without the support of at least nine UNC MP’s because of its eleventh-hour submission and without consulting Tobago.
The objective of Government was clearly to get the Bills to fail and proclaim the THA Amendment Act 2021 which is what they have now done in the greatest parliamentary/legal hoax ever visited on the people of Tobago.
These are two new bills that depart fundamentally and radically from the 2018 Draft referred to the JSC for two years. That is the view of the activists in Tobago.
This deceptive political strategy was engineered to facilitate the Rowley Administration to achieve five political objectives namely:
1. Blame the UNC for non-passage;
2. Defer and shelve the eagerly awaited Tobago Autonomy question for some time that has been PNM’s policy position and zone of comfort ( It will be lapsing in Dec ’21);
3. Operationalise and proclaim (next week 26 July) the side-lined THA Amendment Act to break the PNM-PDP 6-6 deadlock by conducting new THA elections (Dec);
4. Regain political control of the THA by winning the majority of the proposed 15 seats electorate by pouring money to buy over Tobagonians with the EBC in tandem relating to the division and allocation of the 15 electoral districts by a subtle process of manipulation of the boundaries proposed favourable to the PNM’s electoral prospects;
5. Intensify the underlying negative/antagonistic image of the UNC held in Tobago by demonstrating a trumped-up anti-Tobagonian policy, annihilate and/or marginalize the PDP electorally and continue calling the shots in Scarborough from Whitehall.
The Government was making up the Bills by vaps by introducing serious amendments that have not seen the light of day in Tobago. For example, they now propose to extend TIG’s administrative maritime responsibility to 11 miles but measured from the low water mark- not the archipelagic baselines that violates T&T’s archipelagic status.
This eleventh-hour proposal to now recognise Tobago’s entitlement to exercise some jurisdiction over its adjoining maritime areas serves as a cheap palliative designed to appease rising discontent in, inter alia, Parlatuvier and Charlotteville.
That alone will have consequential effects on the Bills that cannot be passed without taking on board indispensable feedback from legitimate interests in Tobago.
These Bills are new and constitute fundamental departures from the original 2018 Draft passed by the THA. They invalidate all previously held consultations from 2011 in Tobago and Trinidad.
As of now the I am convinced that this Self-Governance hamper will be shelved and the PNM will seek to gain electoral advantage to Tobago’s long term detriment.
Self-governance must be economically self-sustaining and less dependent on the Treasury of Trinidad. Tobago has all the economic and political means to fuel and develop its proposed self-government model including:
- the driving human capital, sun-sea—and sand, the fishing industry, oil/gas deposits;
- tourism and eco-tourism, agrarian and tertiary education potential, huge limestone deposits; and
- an articulate and pride in themselves as a people eminently deserving to be respected and treated with real and abiding equality of status with Trinidad and not as an ancillary ward nor political appendage.
Tobago must now show its disgust at being carried for a sight –seeing tour of the Buccoo Reef.