Tobago closer is closer than ever before to achieving self- governance but Tobagonians must educate themselves and be ready to all “speak with one voice,” particularly before the Joint Select Committee this Sunday.
This is the advice from former Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles, speaking at the ANR Robinson Distinguished Lecture Series, at the Scarborough Library on Monday night.
Charles said though the bill for self-government was now before Parliament, Tobagonians must understand what they are demanding in order to to achieve autonomy.
He described Tobago’s autonomy as strengthening the two-island union so that Tobago, as Trinidad, would make its noble contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s economy.
“This is the first time the matter is before the Parliament and what the Parliament would have done was have the Joint Select Committee go through the pros, cons … on that JSC level, so when the debate begins what is said before the JSC will be useful.
“Whether you like it or not, you for it or not, get on board because the legislation is going to pass one way or the other, so have your say now,” he advised.
Charles reminded the public during the panel discussion that equality was not the problem on the road to self-governance but issues of governance, power, jurisdiction, finance and staff.
“In jurisdiction we need to know the area in which we can exercise that power, the laws of the Assembly and over what area can they thrive.
“We must remember since we are talking autonomy and not independence, there are two issues involved. One is how we are governed and how we relate to Trinidad in these two islands. Trinidad will not have a say in our land issues, our taxes … they can have discussions with us on the issues. We will have a legislation to pass our own laws and if we do what is right, what is going on in Trinidad with property tax and all this land questions, your self- government will correct that in Tobago.”
“Tobagonians must understand what self-government is, and that is the right of people who resides of Tobago, I didn’t say Tobagonians, to determine, how we are governed. We want to make sure that Tobago alone is to decide what is good for us where we want Tobago to walk side by side with Trinidad, meaning that the institutions in Tobago must be at the same level with Trinidad where structure and quality must be the same.”
“Tobago is now looking for its freedom from those who control us from the powers in Port-of-Spain and that are why all of us need to speak with one voice on one issue. When that is done and Tobago receives the power to determine how we are run, then we will have government and opposition, right now we don’t have either.
“It’s not about joining anybody’s party but speaking with one voice so when the legislation is passed, then the political parties in Tobago became important because they would want to vie to deliver these new powers on behalf of the people.”
Charles noted that autonomy for Tobago must be passed in a parliament in Trinidad because “it’sthe only legislature we have that can pass the law to grant Tobago’s self-governance but yet the parliamentarian in Trinidad should have no say, we must say this is what we want.”