THE EDITOR: The Government has announced that the Tobago Self-Government Bill will be debated in Parliament early next year.
If we are on the verge of attaining some measure of increased political autonomy, this may be the opportune time to seek to transform the attitudes of Tobagonians towards true citizenship and general loyalty to everything Tobagonian. We must accept responsibility for the overall welfare of Tobago.
I don’t think we are concentrating sufficiently on creating a “Tobagonian of worth.”
Of course we are dwelling on meaningful and interesting matters, but my concern continues to be the frame of mind and everyday thinking of the average Tobagonian. I am not seeing nor feeling any real concern about Tobagonian-ness. It is probably important to be citizens of the world, but I think when we step on to the world stage there must be some distinguishing factor which makes us stand out as Tobagonians.
It is important for us to scrutinise our promised autonomy and identify opportunities for building the character of our island people. I appreciate the importance of the governance structure. I appreciate the importance of economic development. I long to see the day when we can look every Tobagonian in the eye and say, “Stop letting me down.”
How then can we create a blueprint for guiding the behaviour of our people?
Can we begin with a period of compulsory service for all school-leavers, where the essence of civic responsibility is drilled into their psyche and they are introduced formally to the world of work?
Can we rethink the code of dress of our assemblymen, as well as their oath of allegiance, to enable them to recognise that they are ordinary Tobagonians charged with a level of responsibility to be “employees” of the Tobago electorate? How can we best convince them that they are not put there as tyrants to terrify anyone with a different opinion?
Can we formulate a programme of compulsory literacy for all Tobagonians of working age, where we zero in on the “task mentality” and allocate a period of the normal work day to job-related duty and a few hours of the remaining time to some form of educational instruction? Can provision be made at community centres or at work places to facilitate this massive adult training programme?
At church, at school, on the job, or on the block, are we discussing what’s possible at this important stage of our development?
If we truly believe that increased political autonomy is around the corner, we must begin to plan seriously about what we can do differently to make Tobago a better place.
Autonomy must not be just a status thing that we achieve. It must be seen as an opportunity to showcase our Tobagonian-ness.
REGINALD O PHILLIPS