PM moves for THA election after autonomy bill stalls

THE PLAN: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to the media at Thursday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in Blenheim, Tobago. - OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER
THE PLAN: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to the media at Thursday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in Blenheim, Tobago. - OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister laid out, on Thursday, the steps to be taken, starting from Monday, to pave the way for a fresh Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election with 15 seats in order to break the current six-six deadlock between the PNM and the PDP.

Dr Rowley said the Cabinet has approved the proclamation of the THA (Amendment) Act which was passed in the Parliament and assented to by the President on March 16. The proclamation by President Paula-Mae Weekes is scheduled for Monday.

Rowley made the announcement at the post-Cabinet media conference held at the Prime Minister’s residence in Blenheim, Tobago.

Once the act is proclaimed, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is required, within 90 days, to 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 said the minister is then required to lay before the House of Representatives, for approval, a draft order by the President which is debated in the House.

The draft order, once approved, will then be submitted by the minister to the President who will make the order declaring that there will now be 15 seats in the electoral area of Tobago. This clears the way for an election to be called.

“Pursuant to the amended Tobago House of Assembly Act, the date for the primary election cannot be earlier than two months from the making of the order, nor can it be later than three months after the making of the order,” Rowley said.

“Once the date for the primary election is fixed, the EBC then commences all its processes under the Elections and Boundaries Act for the holding of the election.”

He said while the EBC is mandated to complete its report within 90 days of the proclamation, it doesn’t mean it must take 90 days to do so. The EBC, he said, will decide how much time it needs.

The PM said one must bear in mind that the EBC had just completed work in Tobago in January for the last THA election and should be “well positioned and very familiar” with the up-to-date situation of the electorate in Tobago.

“Therefore, we expect that this would be done well within the 90-day period.”

He is hopeful that all will go according to schedule so the next THA election could take place by the end of the year.

Contacted for comment, Political Leader of the PNM Tobago Council Tracy Davidson-Celestine said her party was happy with the announcement.

“The country is very aware that the PNM Tobago Council has said from day one, going back to the polls and letting the people decide was the mature and democratic thing to do.

“While our friends in the PDP wanted to gamble for Tobago’s future with a coin toss and threats of legal action, we believed that Tobago’s future lies in the hands of Tobagonians. We are happy that a final solution with some timelines are finally here.”

She added: “It is time to resolve this deadlock with an election for the people and by the people and bring this island together. We are one people. We may want different things and even disagree on how to get it but, ultimately, we want success.”

Davidson-Celestine said that means a solid future for every Tobagonian through modernisation with the ability to make laws, attract foreign investment, sustainability with green energy, agricultural growth, housing and land management with titles, and a turnaround in the covid19 pandemic.

Newsday called PDP Watson Duke for comment, but he said he plans to respond to the PM on Friday.


"PM moves for THA election after autonomy bill stalls"

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