PROGRESSIVE Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine says the party has "no qualms" about being a part of Tobago’s post-covid19 economic recovery team.
Augustine said so on Wednesday in response to Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis’ statement, a day earlier, that political affiliation was not a consideration in his decision on who to appoint to the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA’s) roadmap to recovery committee.
Members of the committee are expected to be announced next week. Augustine said on Wednesday that the PDP has long been advocating the establishment of a multi-sectoral, multi-partisan team to respond to the island’s development, post-covid19.
The Minority assemblyman recalled that at the PDP’s virtual news briefing on April 23, he said the party was already in discussions with economists Dr Vanus James and Anselm Richards, about strategies that can be implemented to boost Tobago’s economy after the pandemic. “I have also argued that for Tobago to grow, we need a coalition of the competent and the willing,” Augustine said.
In a television interview on Tuesday, Dennis reiterated that political affiliation was not a consideration in selecting members of Tobago’s post covid19 economic recovery team.
“By next Wednesday or Thursday thereabouts, I should be making an announcement on the appointment of a roadmap to recovery working group, and political persuasion, involvement or identity were not factors in choosing the members of the team."
The Chief Secretary said the team comprises people who have Tobago's best interest at heart, adding, “So, people who are qualified and can contribute with respect to particular areas which we intend to focus on, people deemed to be passionate about Tobago and who love the island and definitely want to see it progress, persons who are Tobagonian by at least birth, those were the main considerations. It had nothing to do with political identity or whether you love the PNM or not. The important thing is to have people who love Tobago.”
Dennis, who is also Secretary for Culture, Tourism and Transportation, said he intends to ensure the best minds are involved in the plan for Tobago’s development. On the island’s quest for internal self-government, Dennis said the issue is still very much on the table. Legislation is currently before a joint select committee of Parliament.
“Tobago, in the very near future, must be in a position to greater determine its future, our direction," he said. "We must be able to contribute in a greater way to the national economy.” Dennis made it clear he is not in support of independence or separation from Trinidad.
“I think the two islands complement each other and going forward as a unitary state – as a twin island republic – I think once Tobago is given the necessary powers to treat with its situation here in a particular way, then we can bring a lot more to the development of the country.
"So, internal self-governance, more autonomy for Tobago is indeed a critical issue and I think we have come to the place where it is very close.” Saying he has already made several calls to Trinidad highlighting the importance of internal self-governance to Tobago, Dennis said the legislation is not straightforward.
“There are a lot of nuances to it because it will significantly change the landscape of governance and public administration in this country. There are a number of important considerations that have to be done carefully.”
He added: “I, myself, have made some suggestions which would reflect changes to the bill as it is currently. And I am sure a number of persons may have made suggestions. “So, it has to be treated with urgency. But it also has to be treated in a manner that will allow the process to run seamlessly and smoothly.”