Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles failed to appear before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Land and Physical Infrastructure into the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Ferry Service.
The committee held their Tobago leg of the enquiry on Wednesday at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough. In a letter signed by THA Legal Counsel Alvin Pascall, Charles sent his apology which was read by committee chairman Stephen Creese.
“The Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, the honourable Kelvin Charles confirms safe receipt of your missive dated 24th day of August 2017, the content of which is noted. I am instructed to inform you that the Tobago House of Assembly will not be represented at the sitting of the parliamentary committee on land and physical infrastructure fixed for Wednesday 6th September 2017 at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough, Tobago. As you are no doubt aware, the management of the airport and sea port of Trinidad and Tobago falls under the purview of the Central Government and its agents, the Board of Directors. In view of the above, I shall appreciate you communicating our non-attendance to chairman Senator Stephen Creece esquire and thank him for the opportunity afforded to the Tobago House of Assembly in this connection,” he read.
Committee member, Opposition Senator Wade Mark expressed his disapproval of the Chief Secretary’s non-appearance.
“I just want to put on record my utter disappointment based upon what the Chairman read via correspondence, the failure of the Chief Secretary to grace us with his presence so we could have heard from the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly on this whole matter of these vessels and the crisis,” he said.
Also absent from Wednesday’s enquiry was Minority Leader Watson Duke, who was represented by Assemblyman Farley Augustine. In his submission, Augustine described the current ferry fiasco as a ‘crisis’.
“Until as a country, we begin to seriously put punitive measures in place against those who incur this kind of damage to the public purse, then we are not going anywhere. You could go after the Sonia type boat next; we could end up with the same situation, you would change the configuration of the Port Authority; we can end up with the same problem and so this committee and the Parliament has an opportunity now in a very punitive way to deal with those who would have created this crisis. This crisis in my mind, this crisis was created. It did not happen by accident, it is no emergency, it was created,”
With that, he noted that this issue has really hit Tobago at its worst possible time.
“It has happened at a time when our tourism was almost dead, it has happened at a time when our national economy was at its worst, it has happened at a time when global economies are not doing as well and where in the Caribbean region growth is low, slow and it is happening at a time whereby we thought we would have received better from governance. Tobago has suffered through this more than anyone else and I want to implore everyone on the other side of the waters that is watching because there is a tendency to think that this is a Tobago issue only but, this is a national issue because Tobago issues are national issues,” Augustine said.
The Assemblyman noted that the Governance system as is, is not working.
“It is not working, because if we knew contracts was going to be ended, if we knew that we needed new boats because what we had was old, then we should have known to put things in place long before the system collapsed,” he said.
The enquiry will continue on September 18 at Tower D of the Port-of- Spain International Waterfront Centre and on September 20 in Tobago.