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Saturday 17 March 2018

Charles: solution to inter-island transport in “not too distant future”

Charles: solution to inter-island transport in “not too distant future”

Kelvin Charles

Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles says he is confident that longstanding problems besetting the sea and air bridge would soon come to an end, that he has been speaking with both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Finance Minister Colm Imbert on a resolution, and that “an appropriate announcement should be made in the not too distant future.”

Charles, speaking at last Thursday’s post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex in Calder Hall, also said he felt that he had acquitted himself well in his first year in office, and that he was unworried about a motion of no confidence in his leadership promised by Minority Leader Watson Duke.

He also rubbished reports of a pending reshuffle of THA Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries, describing this as “idle and mischievous talk.”

“I have been hearing of a reshuffle, I know of no reshuffle, I have contemplated no reshuffle and therefore that is idle and mischievous talk….at this time there is no planned reshuffle. I cannot tell you where that would have originated from, I can only put it down as mischief,” he said.

On the matter of problems for travellers caused by irregular scheduling and cancellations of sailings by the Port Authority of the inter-island ferries, Charles said:

“I did raise the issue with the Prime Minister, as well as with the Minister of Finance. From where I sit and given the information I have, it is at a delicate stage, but I feel confident that all things being equal, an appropriate announcement should be made in the not too distant future.”

With regards to the air-bridge, Charles said that a proposal, focussing particularly on fleet renewal, would soon be submitted to Imbert.

“The details of that proposal will not be made public until a decision is taken, that is how these things work,” he declared.

On the no confidence motion in the Chief Secretary, which Duke announced last Tuesday that he will be bringing at the next sitting of the THA in February on the

basis that one year in office the Charles-led Assembly has failed to seek Tobago’s best interest, Charles noted that a motion of no confidence in the Chief Secretary was provided for in the THA Act #40 of 1996.

“I have absolutely no difficulty if he (Duke) thinks that he can pilot such a motion. … I trust that that would be the start of an inclination to operate within the law because as you know, we all as Assemblymen would have taken an oath of office which speaks to the issue of upholding the constitution and the law. So, it would be nice if all our efforts and actions are consistent with law,” he said.

On December 20, Charles had denounced as “a particular kind of lawlessness, akin almost to mob rule,” protest action by workers of the Health Division for non-payment of salaries for December 2017 as well as the short notice for relocation to new offices - which Duke had described as “unprepared accommodation.” The workers were led in their protest action by Duke, who is also President of the Public Services Association.

In terms of the THA’s work, Charles maintained that he and his team have performed creditably over the last year, especially in managing reduced budgetary allocations and in maintaining employment levels.

“As you may recall, we came into office at a time when for the first time over the last four to five years, there was parliamentary reduction of approximately $450 million…we had in respect of our reduced resources, to liquidate a back pay debt to the TRHA (Tobago Regional Health Authority) workers. The total of that debt was $140 million, we did that and after doing all of that, we were able to maintain employment levels throughout the year, and that is no small feat. I think that we have done creditably in all circumstances,” he said.


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