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Sunday 25 March 2018

Tobago shutdown risks

HOW DOES a shutdown of all business operations provide a solution to the problems facing Tobago? Sunday’s decision of some of the stakeholders in the Tobago Chapter of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce strikes us as baffling to say the least.

A two-day shutdown will simply disrupt affairs on the island and will also be to the detriment of the same businesses that are promulgating the action.

While we fully understand the nature of protest action as well as the constitutional provisions which give citizens freedom to associate and express themselves as they wish, this latest action seems wholly gratuitous.

It is simply a provocation which will do more damage to the island’s international tourist trade than it will effect change.

Oddly, the protest comes at a time when it is clear that concerted efforts are being made to address problems which have affected the island’s infrastructure.

Those problems did not emerge overnight. So why should a protest action, ostensibly premised on the notion that solutions are not coming fast enough, be adopted in relation to matters that require long-term collaboration?

It is hoped the Tobago Chapter will reconsider this decision.

The last thing Tobago needs is yet another headache. And that is what a protest shutdown will be.

It will simply add to the list of woes facing Tobagonians and visitors to the island. It will also engender a dangerous air of uncertainty that is detrimental to trade in the long-run.

Meanwhile, the State must operate under the assumption that no change of heart will be forthcoming.

It must assess what risk, if any, such a commercial shutdown poses to the island, inclusive of the Tobago House of Assembly’s ability to offer services to the public.

One’s political affiliation should not colour how one sees this latest development. All political parties on the island should be concerned when the welfare of the people of Tobago is possibly endangered.

In this regard, the support offered by THA Minority Leader and president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke is perhaps another in a long line of mis-steps. Duke must realise that the Tobago Chapter had many other options in front of it and could have resolved to register disapproval in myriad other ways that do not involve shutting down.

It is now plain for all to see that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s closed-door dialogue with business leaders earlier this year should have been open to the media and the general public. For now, it is the public who stand to lose the most if this group persists in its bizarre provocation.


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