AS the Prime Minister pilots a motion for approval by Parliament on the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) draft order for 15 electoral districts in the next Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, the Opposition wants to know if $50 million released to the THA in July was really a war chest for the PNM.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bisessar on Monday produced a copy of a memo, allegedly from the Ministry of Finance, which addressed the release of funds.
Speaking on the United National Congress (UNC) virtual report platform, Persad-Bissessar read the document which said the release was to facilitate the THA covid19 response, operationalisation of the Roxborough hospital and Moriah health centre, as well as payment of outstanding debts by the Tobago RHA.
“Fifty million (dollars) on the eve of the elections? You want to tell me this is not to buy votes?”
She said she was not jealous of the THA getting the funds, rather she had an issue with its disbursement, especially as Government had already announced $5 billion spend on covid relief but with little accounting for that expenditure.
“Prime Minister, the longest rope has an end and this very election you seek may be your undoing.
“The people of Tobago may surprise you yet when you think you have it in the bag, because you have ‘Rowleymandered’ the boundaries.
“You may be for a surprise in Tobago when the election is called.”
Newsday messaged Finance Minister Colm Imbert for a response to Persad-Bissessar’s allegation but while he read the messages, he did not respond.
Following the six-six tie in the January THA election, the THA (Amendment) Act was passed to increase the electoral districts to 15, to break the deadlock and call fresh elections.
The EBC draft order does not require a constitutional majority.
Persad-Bissessar is of the view, “This order is unconstitutional. It will be struck down by the courts. This Government is always acting unconstitutionally.” She warned, “you can run but you cannot hide.”
She said there was also now a possibility of a three-way tie.
She added that the EBC in its last report in 2020 said there was no need to change the number of seats using the formula prescribed by the law
“Again, the lawmaker who believes he is God says he wants 15 seats, and having done it they are now 'Rowleymandering' the boundaries in Tobago.
“The boundaries have been changed in such a way to favour the PNM in the three new seats they have created.”
She warned, “PM Rowley, you are not going to get away with this.”
The order calls for the elections at a minimum of two months and maximum of three upon making the order, and Persad-Bissessar asked if the state of emergency will be suspended to allow campaigning and voting.
The three additional seats created by the distribution of electors are: Darrel Spring/Whim, Lambeau /Lowlands, and Mt St George/Goodwood.