The Prime Minister has sparked speculation about when the general election will be held, after saying "Parliament dissolves in July." He made the statement on Tuesday while discussing the long-standing issue of Tobago autonomy.
Speaking on Tobago Channel 5’s morning show, Dr Rowley was reluctant to provide much information on the actual date of the election, only saying “elections will be held when they are due, and the elections are due.”
He said, “We are coming to the point at the end of this term. I have been in Government now, I have been your Prime Minister now, for four, almost five years. The parliamentary term…life of this Parliament will come to an end towards the end of September, and under the Constitution, once it goes to that end, you have 90 days...no more than 90 days to call the elections. If the Parliament is prorogued before that, whatever date it’s prorogued you have 90 days. So we are now in June. So the elections are due.”
However, addressing the issue of autonomy for Tobago, Rowley said "There’ll probably be a report before the Parliament dissolves in July,” referring to the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2018, currently before a joint select committee.
Rowley said, “These things are slow-progress items and they’ll have to wait for quite a while.”
The issue of self-governance was the last major thing that former chief secretary Orville London worked on, having hired attorneys Gilbert Peterson and Russell Martineau and holding consultations around Tobago for two years. Rowley said arising out of that Tobago consultation, two draft bills were produced.
“Those draft bills were meant to capture what the consultation produced as to what Tobago thinks its self-governance should be. Those draft bills came to the Cabinet under my Government, we took it to the Parliament and it is now in the Parliament before a joint select committee – a committee of the Parliament made up of Government, Opposition and independents. They are now dealing with that."
Rowley said the UNC's support is essential to making the bill law.
“The reason for that is this: the major changes have to be made to advance Tobago to any greater autonomy, because you do have some self-government, but...greater autonomy requires changes in the Constitution, which the PNM by itself cannot make.
"We do not have the votes in the Parliament to make that change…unless the UNC is in agreement to make that change.”
He added: “What we are hoping is that the joint select committee would advance its work and get to a point where they can put before the Parliament significant changes for Tobago that the parliamentarians can agree on."
He said the JSC " reports to the Parliament off and on, and there’ll probably be a report before the Parliament dissolves in July to say whatever work they’ve done and so on.”
But he also pointed out: "We in the PNM are the only political party that by resolution in our congress said that we are committed to further Tobago’s self-government.
"What we need to do is try and accelerate it through the Parliament."