PDP deputy: Tobago unified against draft autonomy bill

PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine, left, speaks to supporters outside the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough in January. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS  -
PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine, left, speaks to supporters outside the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough in January. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -

The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) intends to continue lobbying for the defining of Tobago’s maritime boundaries and the island’s control over its waters.

At a virtual news conference on Thursday, Augustine said that his team will put its position in writing to the Joint Select Committee, which has been seeking feedback on the draft Tobago Self-Government Bill 2020 and the Tobago Island Administration Bill 2021.

He recalled that on Wednesday, the PDP hosted its own consultation on the bill and approximately 200 people participated via Zoom and Facebook links.

“So, we had more people participating in our consultation than who participated at the consultation by the JSC.

“The truth is: Tobagonians far and wide, Tobagonians whether they are PNM or PDP, Tobagonians whether they’re from town or country – they are all agreeing that the bill that is being proposed is not tenable and we do not want the bill that is being proposed. It is not a good bill – that is how Tobagonians feel about the bill that is presently before us.”

He said one of the main things that came out of the bill is the definition of Tobago, but more so, what would be the area or the scope of the jurisdiction of the new Tobago Island Government that is proposed.

“Because if we are going to have autonomy, the question is: when a law is passed in Tobago, how far and wide can the impact of that law be felt, and based on what is being proposed, you should know, Tobagonians, that not even the Buccoo Reef would be under the legislative authority of the new Tobago House of Assembly or the Tobago Island Government as it is being called.”

He added: “It means then that Tobago will not be able to make legislation for Buccoo Reef nor for the reefs beyond Little Tobago or beyond St Giles, it means that we can’t just go and set up a marina, we can’t reclaim land, we can’t do marine parks, and that is based on what is being proposed.”

During the recent JSC consultations on the bill in Tobago, this was a major point raised by Augustine, but Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said that based on advice received from former ambassador of TT to the United Nations Gerald Thompson, this would place Tobago at a disadvantage.

“Now, it is important to note that Act 40 of 1996 (THA Act) that currently gives Tobago administrative jurisdiction for up to six miles out from Tobago and Al-Rawi indicated that even that was an illegal attempt by the Central Government then to give Tobago rights over some of its waters."

Al-Rawi told the JSC the reference of six miles in the THA Act was "unworkable and wrong in law."

Augustine said he received a copy of the advice from Thompson and there was some level of contradiction between the AG’s response and what is outlined in the ex-ambassador’s advice.

“When we look at the advice given by ambassador Thompson, the advice, thankfully leaked to me, it shows that while Thompson is saying let us not define Tobago in the way that it was done in the 2016 draft that was sent down to Trinidad, that there is a way to give Tobago up to 11 miles.

"Give us 11 miles and let us sit down and work out a formula for sharing the dividends, for sharing the royalties, for sharing the profits from the resources found in waters that Trinidad and Tobago has been exploring and can continue to explore simply because Tobago is part of the union that is called Trinidad and Tobago.”


"PDP deputy: Tobago unified against draft autonomy bill"

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