Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Dr Faith BYisrael says the party is not afraid of contesting a fresh Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election for 15 seats.
At a news conference on Thursday in Tobago, the Prime Minister revealed the stage is set for a fresh election to break the unprecedented six-six deadlock in the January 25 THA poll.
Dr Rowley said the Cabinet approved the proclamation of the THA (Amendment) Act, which President Paula Mae Weekes assented to on May 16. It will be proclaimed on Monday.
Rowley said once the act is proclaimed, within 90 days, the Elections and Boundaries Commission must produce a report and submit it to the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government for the purpose of creating the 15 electoral districts.
Rowley outlined several other procedures which would pave the way for the new election. He anticipates one will be called before 2022.
But speaking at a virtual news conference on Friday, BYisrael said while the party is not afraid of a fresh election, it is disappointed in the Government’s position.
She added it reflects that the People’s National Movement (PNM) was never truly serious about Tobago’s autonomy.
“This is a disappointing change of events and it actually shows that the PNM, led by Dr Rowley, really was not sincere and was not serious about this Tobago autonomy thing,” she said.
“Because in the same way that he could go to the Parliament and ask the President to proclaim the THA Amendment Act – and that would take a little time to go through the process – if we were really serious about the Constitution Amendment Bill and the Tobago Island Government bill, then we would have put the same amount of effort into ensuring that that worked, and worked the way it should have worked.”
She recalled earlier this month, Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis, who chaired the joint select committee which reviewed the “autonomy” bills, had given stakeholders 15 days to bring amendments to both pieces of legislation.
“At that 15-day period, amendments are sent in and instead of working very swiftly with the Parliament, with all of the parties in Trinidad, including the independent senators, the Prime Minister then quickly then says, ‘We not bothering with that. Let’s just go back to the 15 seats with the old Tobago House of Assembly.’
"It is just proof that they really did not care. They have never cared about giving Tobago the kind of autonomy that Tobago has been clamouring for.”
BYisrael claimed the PNM has been “pushing back” against Tobago getting its autonomy from the beginning.
“So they just continue to prove that that is who they are and that is what they do.”
The Goodwood/Belle Garden representative claimed since the deadlock, the PDP’s supporters and even those who do not support the party have realised how “unfair, undemocratic and illegal" those on the other side have been.
BYisrael added that supporters "have been telling us on the ground that they are ready and willing and really want an opportunity now for fresh elections.
“So we are not afraid to go back to the elections. We are not afraid to go back to the polls because we know that the winds of change are actually blowing."
With the PDP, she said, "coming from not being an organisation in 2015, pulling ourselves together in 2016, contesting and getting two seats in 2017 and somehow wrestling with those two seats and coming to 2021 and getting six seats – we know that the winds of change are actually blowing in our direction and we aremore likely to win the election than not.”
BYisrael said the party would have liked to see the “autonomy” bills passed “to ensure that Tobago got what it wants and not what it deserves.
“So it is disappointing that the Prime Minister would choose this route to get us out of the six-six quagmire.”