Although the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) bill was passed in Senate close to midnight on Tuesday night, independent Senator Dr Maria Dillon-Remy is arguing that the concept of 15 districts was discussed in relation to self-governance for Tobago.
The bill was passed with 16 votes for and 14 against but Dillon-Remy argued yesterday that the increase in the number of Tobago districts from 12 to 15 was based on the premise of Tobago autonomy and was never intended to be used to break an election deadlock.
The Government secured a single, necessary vote from the independent bench from senator Paul Richards.
However, Dillion-Remy questioned why the bill did not seek to increase the Tobago seats to 13 as opposed to 15.
Addressing the concerns during the session, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the 15-seat concept was not chosen out of the blue but was selected following the consultation with the people of Tobago years ago.
But Dillon-Remy refused to support the bill and was still confused about the process used yesterday.
“If they wanted an odd number, 13 is less than 15, if it’s just an odd number they required. They did not have to move from 12 to 15,” Dillion-Remy said in a telephone interview.
“The context of that 15 was the context of autonomy for Tobago where, in that self-government bill, Tobago will have law-making powers.
“What the PNM did was to pull that number out and put it here to break a deadlock and I did not accept that, which is why I did not vote for the 15.”
Remy also asked that the vote on the bill be delayed until yesterday when the Prime Minister met with the aldermen in Tobago.
“My thing with the bill is that there was no consultation with the duly-elected assemblymen in Tobago and they were bringing a bill with no consultation, that was my biggest thing with the bill,” she said.
Moving from 12 to 15, she added, was her second concern.
Back in December, Dillon-Remy had come under intense fire when she was the lone independent senator who helped the Government pass the contentious procurement legislation. Yesterday, she refused to comment on Richards’ vote in favour of the latest bill.
“As independent senators, you vote where you think you should so I have absolutely no comment on that,” she said.
Guardian Media called and texted Richards but he did not answer his phone or return calls for comment on his support for the bill.