Economist Dr Vanus James thinks the PNM should be removed from office in Tobago, given the state of turmoil the party's Tobago council has found itself since its internal elections on January 19. Interviews last week by Newsay Tobago, James said the recent fiasco within the party has demonstrated a breakdown of party discipline.
“The breakdown of party discipline is partly because Kelvin Charles and the Prime Minister appear to have fallen out...this is the breakdown of party discipline across TT.
“The traditional meaning of party discipline in the line of government that we have, is that within Tobago, the Chief Secretary would be the leader of government, the leader of the party and the enforcer of discipline within the party. The position of Tobago with the PNM is that party discipline is cross-island party discipline.
"They’re dealing with discipline in the PNM nationally and so when Charles decided he was pushing his own agenda and not pushing Rowley’s agenda, that’s what led to the breakdown of party discipline. In challenging Rowley’s dominance, Rowley engineered his (Charles) removal,” James said. He said that from a Tobago perspective, what this state of affairs says is that the PNM now represents the absence of genuine sovereignty at the level of the population in Tobago.
“The population cannot discipline the PNM within the Tobago space. It has to play second fiddle to the discipline Rowley wants out from out of Port of Spain. So, this is about the dominance of the Cabinet and party discipline within the PNM across the island, across the seas,” he said. The economist said this is not particularly good for Tobago and is an indication that it may be time for the people of Tobago to send a different signal to the PNM.
“Remove them from office, let them go and sort out their business and have a strong party that is a Tobago-based party. Put somebody else in power and let us move on with our affairs until they can get their business sorted out.
“They are demonstrating that they are incapable of governing Tobago in the interest of the people of Tobago. As it is now, they (the PNM Tobago Council) has to govern Tobago in the interest of Rowley back in Trinidad. I think that’s really what you’re seeing here. I don’t think they are competent to fix that problem. So, they need to be removed from office and allow the people of Tobago to go on with their affairs while the PNM sort out their business,” James said.
And with widespread speculation that Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis will be given the nod to become next Chief Secretary, James said he too has been hearing this rumour. “I’ve been hearing that for the last two weeks...this is just another person whose name would be put forward.
“It doesn’t matter if Tracy (Davidson-Celestine) herself was leader, she will have to maintain discipline across the seas. She would have to follow Rowley’s politics and that is the problem. So, moving Charles doesn’t fix that...the PNM is solving the wrong problem. They need to take the lead if they are going to govern Tobago in coming up with a design of government that allows for the sovereignty of the people of Tobago in the Tobago political space.”
He said that currently, the PNM is embodying the colonial management of Tobago by Trinidad. “They are forced to manage their affairs to fit the understanding that the Chief Secretary in Tobago has to obey the Prime Minister. That is not the intent that the people of Tobago have...we need to bring to the attention of the people of Tobago that what this represents is a breakdown of the sovereignty of the people of Tobago over the THA. We didn’t set up the THA to be subservient to the parliament in Trinidad,” he said.
Chaos erupted in the PNM Tobago Council after a runoff which was won by Davidson-Celestine who then called on Charles, the incumbent Chief Secretary to demit office after having lost the runoff. Charles insisted he was not going anywhere pointing out that the post of Chief Secretary is an elected one via THA elections and is separate and apart from the PNM Tobago Council's internal election.
In the end, Charles announced he would demit office at the end of April while Davidson-Celestine would be appointed a councillor on March 1. There is speculation that THA Secretary for Health, Dr Agatha Carrington may be removed to allow Davidson-Celestine to enter the Assembly.