The choice of a Sunday for the meeting in Tobago of the oint Select Committee on the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2018, was raised as a matter of concern by members of the public at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.
Speakers from the handful of person who turned out to the meeting also called for the bill as presented to be withdrawn, as it does not speak to the issu eof internal self-government.
And queries were raised about the removal of the definition of Tobago and Trinidad.
Belle Garden resident Anslem Richards, knocked the committee for scheduling its first meeting on a Sunday, a church day in Tobago.
“Permit me to express my concern with the time and day of this meeting… If we understand the cultural history of Tobago, we know about Sundays and our religious observances are very important to us. I would like to think that the members from Tobago would have brought that kind of bearing to the committee that 1 o’clock on a Sunday is really in the centre of people’s worship in Tobago,” Richards said.
On the bill as presented, Richards said it does not speak to the issue of internal self-government for Tobago.
“The bill is pregnant with inconsistencies… this bill does not provide a clear and precise definition of Tobago. This bill does not speak to what constitutes internal self-government… notwithstanding that we would have had this issue discussed in 1976/77 in the national Parliament.
“In addition, some of the provisions of the bill are anti-democratic…there is a provision in this bill that speaks to a Fiscal Review Commission that will determine the allocation for the people of Tobago by advising the Parliament on same. I don’t think that any modern arrangement for the governance of any part of Trinidad and Tobago should speak to an entity like this which is a non-elected entity, that would be empowered to determine how the people of Tobago will be funded without any reference to our elected representatives for our island government,” he said.
Richards said the bill should be rejected by the people of Tobago, as he called for it to be withdrawn, recommending that the island be given the authority to write a bill on how the island government should function as opposed to trying to institutionalise it.
Chairman of the committee, Camille Robinson-Regis, said the bill before from Parliament came from Tobago and no changes have been made.
“You do understand that this bill came from Tobago… it did. It was written after the Forum had its discussions and it came from Tobago to the Cabinet and then to the Parliament. The Cabinet has not touched this bill … after the various years of discussion, this is the bill that came exactly in this form to the Cabinet and then the Cabinet took it to the Parliament in the exact form that it was sent. No changes have been made, this bill represents years of discussion from the people, by the people in Tobago. So, this is from Tobago, it has not been amended in any way,” she maintained.
Calder Hall resident, Anthony Hector, in his comments, said errors of the past were yet to be corrected, and that the bill was attempting to do so.
“What we are trying to fix here is a major error from 1898, which was an act of union between Trinidad and Tobago, which was the greatest disaster that ever took place in terms of setting out a framework for the relationship between the two nations.
There is also need to describe in your document that we are dealing with nations, not islands, we need to up the language,” he advised.
Robinson-Regis responded by saying there was one nation, Trinidad and Tobago.
“…There is no state of Trinidad and there is no state of Tobago, there is no nation of Trinidad and there is no nation of Tobago, there is a nation called the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.