It is the right of the people of Tobago to determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
So said Camille Robinson-Regis, Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2018, at its first public hearing at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough on Sunday.
Robinson-Regis said the bill, introduced in the House of Representatives on March 9 by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, “seeks to give equal status between Trinidad and Tobago.”
“It also seeks to establish the Tobago Legislature with the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Tobago on all matters except those which are within the purview specifically stated of the central government,” she said.
Stating that the bill seeks to amend the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and repeal Chapter 25:03 of the Tobago House of Assembly Act to accord self-government to the island, she noted that “the
history of the bill is well known, having gone through a certain number of iterations through various meetings held in Tobago in the main, and in Trinidad.”
Noting various provisions, she said:
“The bill will establish a Tobago Executive Council, a Tobago Island Government and Tobago’s matters are to be aired in the Cabinet meetings by the Chief Secretary upon meeting with the Prime Minister.
“The bill also seeks to ensure that in the event that the President is to exercise his or her functions under the constitution or any other law, he or she must do so under the advice of the Cabinet, under the advice of a Minister, acting under the authority of the Cabinet, as well as the Tobago Executive Council or a Secretary acting under the authority of the Council.” She also noted a provision to establish a Fiscal Review Commission.
“The Fiscal Review Commission will recommend the sums that the Parliament will give to Tobago for each financial year and establish also a mechanism for revenue sharing between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. …Parliament shall appropriate eight percent of the Tobago budget in each financial year for the use of the House of Assembly and there will also be established a Tobago fund which would consist of the monies appropriated by Parliament for the use of the House of Assembly and any other monies that the House of Assembly collects, borrows or is granted.
“The House of Assembly will retain monies granted by the Parliament to that Tobago Fund, which remains unexpended at the end of that Financial Year.”
She said the Tobago Executive Council would have the power to borrow locally and internationally and also the power to invest subject to certain qualifications.
“The Tobago Legislature shall approve financial rules which are necessary for its proper financial management and the powers of the Tobago Legislature and the Tobago Executive Council will have effect only in Tobago,” she said. The bill is expected to be returned to the House by July 31.