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Political leader of the PNM Tobago Council, Tracy Davidson-Celestine speak to members of the media after yesterday’s meeting at the Assembly Legislature.2/4/21

The twelve elected members of the Tobago House of Assembly met for a third time to vote on the selection of a Presiding Officer yesterday, and after another four rounds of voting, there was yet another deadlock in the selection process.

During yesterday’s meeting members of the Progressive Democratic Patriots sought clarification from the Clerk of the House on whether the sitting was a resumption of the previous session which ended prematurely or a new round of votes.

The Clerk of the House at one point ignored the requests for clarity by members of the PDP, only acknowledging the question when asked several times. After accepting nominations from both sides to initiate a new round of voting, member for Goodwood/Belle Garden Dr Faith B. Yisrael, again pressed for clarity on whether the previous process was being resumed or a new one started. In her response the Clerk of the House said,

“We are resuming the election of a Presiding Officer which ought to be done by the members of the Assembly.”

However, when the member for Goodwood/Belle Garden Dr Faith B. Yisrael, highlighted that the previous voting process was incomplete and should therefore be completed if the meeting was indeed a “resumption” of the exercise. The Clerk of the House ignored the observation and requested that the member proceed with a new round voting process which began with the nomination of candidates.

“Could you please use the ballot paper provided to select the candidate of your choice.”

At the end of the latest round of deadlocked votes the sitting was again suspended however member for Lanse Fourmi/Parlatuvier/Speyside, Farley Augustine urged the Clerk of the House to seek “independent legal advice on the way forward” and the party’s Political Leader Watson Duke asked the Clerk to clarify whether or not the meeting would continue as prescribed by Standing Order 92 (1), which requires that the Clerk continue the exercise until there is a definitive outcome.

The Clerk left the chamber after saying that she “remains available for the selection of a Presiding Officer.”

Following the voting Political Leader of the Tobago Council of the PNM Tracy Davidson Celestine said she was in agreement with the Prime Minister’s approach to amend the constitution to increase the number of districts before heading back to the polls.

“The autonomy bill which was put forward takes into consideration quite a number of seats those seats were not just pulled out of a hat they were the result of Tobago wide and Trinidad wide consultations and the majority who have participated said we need to move from 12 seats to 15 seats so Tobagonians have a position in the parliament at this point on time, said Davidson Celestine.

Political Leader of the PDP Watson Duke accused the Clerk of not doing her job as there has been no written notice of the meeting and no minutes of previous meetings. He also questioned Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s approach to solving the problem.

“I don’t know how our Prime Minister could say if we draw new boundaries it will solve the problem, with a simple thing as casting lots for a Presiding Officer has pre-occupied the mind of the Prime Minister so much that he now wants to single out an authority to determine who should lead.”

Duke said the PDP refuses to accept the manner in which the Clerk of the house is treating with Tobago’s business.

Deputy Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots Farley Augustine said the Prime Minister’s approach of only observing some laws while ignoring others endangers the democracy of the Tobago House of Assembly

“It emboldens our legal case and what we have been saying that the court has to bring this to some resolution we are seriously concerned that we will not be able to have the first ordinary meeting as mandated in law,” said Augustine.

Augustine said the PDP will proceed with its intention to seek legal intervention as they believe the actions of the Clerk of the House is currently in breach of parliamentary law.