PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine says the party, similar to rival PDP, is disappointed the upcoming THA election was not triggered by the passage of the Tobago “autonomy” bills in the Parliament.
The Prime Minister announced last Thursday that Cabinet had approved the proclamation of the THA Amendment Act, which paves the way for a fresh THA election with 15 seats to break the deadlock.
Dr Rowley outlined several procedures which must be completed in order for the election to take place. He expects it will be held before 2022.
Saying a return to the polls is the “most mature and democratic thing,” to resolve the six-six deadlock in the assembly, Davidson-Celestine said, “The unfortunate thing, however, is that we are not able to achieve the long-term objective of having the autonomy bill passed first and for that to be the trigger for the next election.”
She added: “It was our fervent hope that these bills, once brought, would be passed by all sides and would be the trigger for the next election. That did not happen.”
Nevertheless, Davidson-Celestine said it was time to move on from the deadlock with an election for and by the people to unite Tobago.
“We may want different things and even disagree on how to get it. But ultimately, we want success and a solid future for every Tobagonian.”
Davidson-Celestine recalled that several attempts were made to resolve the deadlock.
The PNM and PDP tried to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement but were at loggerheads over a number of issues.
Davidson-Celestine said the PNM has always maintained that a return to the polls is the only solution.
“Those who are opposite to us indicated at that time that they were prepared to gamble Tobago’s future with a coin toss along with threats of legal action. But we always believed that Tobago’s future lies in the hands of Tobagonians.
“Therefore, we are extremely grateful that a final solution with some timelines are here.”
The proclamation of the THA (Amendment) Act then shifts the focus to the Elections and Boundaries Commission, which has 90 days to redefine the boundaries in Tobago from 12 to 15 seats.
The Minister of Rural Development and Local Government 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 in two to three months.
The report of the joint select committee, which reviewed the Constitution Amendment Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill, was debated in the House of Representatives on June 28 and 29.
The Opposition MPs walked out of the Parliament chamber during the debate.
But the PNM’s 22 members voted to adopt the JSC’s report, which required a three-fifths majority for passage.
The bills, meant to give Tobago greater autonomy in managing its affairs, have since moved into the committee stage.