Political leader of the PNM Tobago Council Tracy Davidson-Celestine said her party will never support a nominee for THA presiding officer put forward by the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), or vice versa.
Last Monday's THA election saw both parties tied 6-6 and the deadlock continued within the assembly with the failure –on two occasions – to agree on a presiding officer.
The PNM nominated TRHA chairman Ingrid Melville while the PDP nominated THA Department of Youth Affairs programme co-ordinator Julien Skeete.
Monday's sitting, the second since the assemblymen took their oaths of office, was adjourned until Thursday after both parties again stood firm on their proposed candidates. However, the PDP accused the Clerk of the Assembly of bias towards the PNM and said the framers of the THA Act intended for a marathon sitting until a presiding officer was selected.
Addressing a news conference at the party’s campaign office in Scarborough, Davidson-Celestine said the casting vote is what is important following the selection of a candidate.
She said, “There would never be a situation where the PDP accepts our nominee for presiding officer or where the PNM team accepts their nominee for presiding officer. We recognise that can be the difference, or all of us recognise rather that can be the difference in whether the PNM goes forward or whether the PDP goes forward.
"So don’t study the noises that are being made about whether the candidate that has been offered by the PNM is youthful enough, when we chose our candidate it was through a well-thought-out process – it is not necessarily about the presiding officer, it is the casting vote is what is important in this particular instance.”
She added: “Our position at this point, in terms of our legislative functions or approach, whenever the sitting is called, we would attend, and we have already put forward our position in terms of who we want to consider to be our presiding officer. We are very prepared, we are prepared to be flexible and as I would have indicated yesterday (Monday), we would have offered up someone else but that was not accepted in that sitting so we stand steadfast by the person that we have put forward who is now Ingrid Melville.”
On Monday, Augustine told members of the media that Clerk of the Assembly Myrna McLeod was supposed to keep the vote going until one of the members was elected or other candidates proposed. But Davidson-Celestine differed.
“In a situation where you only have two names being offered and those two names are coming up over and over again and, in a situation, where you have a deadlock, in our mind and I am sure from the very reasoned approach taken by the clerk of the house, it really made no sense to continue that sitting well into the night because the circumstances would not change in any significant way. And so, why then carry on until that time when you can break and come back at a later time, which is what has been happening.”
Davidson-Celestine called on the PDP to meet with them to determine some rules of engagement for the meeting and to discuss a way forward.
She said the current situation is not one that calls for emotions but one that calls for the rule of law to be followed.
“Even though I am very open, or we are rather very open to meeting with the PDP, I am certain...there would not be a positive outcome because they want also the same thing that we want.
“Even yesterday (Monday) it was very difficult sitting down with them to determine the rules of engagement for that particular sitting. We have said let us go with Thursday at 1.30 pm, they have said let us go with an all-nighter."
She said that her team intends to write to the Prime Minister for assistance.
“Ensuring that we can amend the Tobago House of Assembly Act to include certain clauses that would assist us in moving forward and then of course, out of the autonomy document, we spoke to having different boundaries in Tobago, some have argued 13 but we have advanced 15, not from our own understanding of the situation but because Tobagonians have said that we want to see 15 electoral districts, and all of this was highlighted and taken into consideration when we had the process when we determined what it is we want to see happening in our own quest for self-determination.
"So those three seats to bring us up to 15 weren’t three that were pulled out of a hat but came out of a process of consensus from all those who would have participated.”
She said the only way to resolve the current impasse is to go back to the polls.