THE EDITOR: It is important that I bring once more to the attention of the people of TT that the recent conversations revolving around self-governance for Tobago have and continue to be in contravention to the views of the former president, Arthur NR Robinson, whose contribution to the establishment of the THA Act is well known.
It seems apparent that some Tobago politicians have been using the promise of self-governance as something that would lead Tobago to financial and social glory. As Robinson’s former communication specialist, there were several occasions where this issue was discussed in great detail.
The (late) president held the view that the THA Act provided adequate mechanisms that would ensure the autonomy of the Tobago House of Assembly, in running the affairs of Tobago. He believed that the secession of Tobago from the union with Trinidad would result in inevitable hardships for this island of his birth.
While he recognised the resources of tourism, agriculture and, to some degree industry, including manufacturing, would lend themselves naturally to building an indigenous economy in Tobago, he believed that it would not be sufficient to drive the development of the human resources that Tobago was blessed with for many years.
Historically, Tobago had always produced distinguished people who made sterling contributions to the unitary state in various capacities, and many continue to do so today.
Robinson conveyed that the major contributor to the ongoing financial constraints that affect Tobago are linked to the lack of enforcement of terms outlined in the THA Act. Under Section 49 (collection of revenues) it stipulates:
49. (1) Notwithstanding section 13 of the Exchequer and Audit Act, all revenue collected in Tobago on behalf of the Government and payable thereto in respect of activities undertaken or discharged in Tobago shall be paid into the Fund.
(2) Upon the coming into force of this act, any company, financial institution or person operating a business in Tobago shall pay in Tobago all taxes, fees, duties, levies and other imposts in respect of its operations in Tobago.
Also outlined in the THA Act and referenced in the Constitution is the formula used to determine the financial allocation that is budgeted each year for Tobago. The relevant question is whether governments in the past have adhered to what is declared under the act in relation to funding the operations of the THA. If the act is not being strictly upheld, as has been the case for many years by some governments, it would become easy to introduce discussions about secession and internal self-government by a means that would extend beyond what is prescribed under the THA Act.
After being privy to several discussions with Robinson, many times in the presence of other learned individuals, it is reasonable to infer that he subscribed to the view that anyone who advocates for self-governance (secession) for Tobago inevitably exposes the island to both social and economic destruction.
The unitary state arrangement that currently prevails is critical for the continued financial and social well-being of both islands.