There is no need to increase the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) electoral districts from 12 to 15. There is already a provision in the legislation to account for ties.
This was the view of Dinesh Rambally, MP for Chaguanas West, who acts as the opposition’s shadow minister for the Attorney General. He was speaking at a media conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Port of Spain, on Sunday.
On January 25, the THA elections had its first ever tie with the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) getting six seats each.
On February 12, the Prime Minister laid the Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Parliament stating he was advised by senior counsel to amend the act to have an odd number of electoral districts to avoid a deadlock. The Bill was passed in the Lower House and now heads to the Senate on March 3.
Rambally said creating three more seats will sway the voting to favour the PNM. In the THA 2021 elections, the PNM won the popular vote.
“It seems as though this PNM government...Are only interested in passing laws, bringing legislation to the parliament, that will serve its purposes, and it does not necessarily serve the public’s purposes.”
The opposition’s solution for breaking the tie is to “obey the law” and adhere to THA standing order 92.
The Prime Minister sought guidance from senior counsel to shift the voter districts. Rambally wants to know who these senior counsel are that made the recommendations.
“If it is you have sought legal advice that is proper...Why don’t you produce that advice in the public domain? Who is the senior counsel?”
Rambally also wants to know who paid for that opinion and if it was paid out of tax payers’ dollars.