Deputy Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Farley Augustine, being sworn in as the Assemblyman for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside. (Image courtesy the Assembly Legislature of the Tobago House of Assembly)
Reporting by AKASH SAMAROO & JANELLE BERNARD

The historical deadlock continues at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) as the Assembly failed to decide upon a Presiding Officer.

In contention were Ingrid Melville (nominated by the People’s National Movement) and Julien Skeete (nominated by the Progressive Democratic Patriots), both of whom won six votes each from the two political parties elected to the Assembly.

Deputy Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Farley Augustine, may have anticipated such an outcome when he spoke with CNC3’s The Morning Brew, earlier today.

He pointed out that where there are no provisions in the THA’s Standing Orders to break a deadlock, the Parliament’s Standing Orders are the next step, should there be an issue in electing a Presiding Officer.

“Based on the Standing Orders of the National Parliament, which were revised in June 2015, the Clerk of the House is empowered to cast lots to determine which of the two nominees will become the next Presiding Officer,” he explained.

He added: “It could be something as simple as the Clerk of the House flipping a coin, or pulling straws, or putting the names in bag and pulling one out, in order to resolve the matter.”

Today’s deadlocked vote for Presiding Officer followed the swearing in of the 12 Assemblymen by Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, as she addressed the newly sworn in Assemblymen in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), on Thursday 28 January 2021. (Image courtesy the Assembly Legislature of the Tobago House of Assembly)

President Weekes observed that while the THA results have brought forward an unprecedented situation, it is not necessarily a bad thing, as the world has been getting accustomed to firsts—be it the global pandemic or the political landscape in the United States.

“The word ‘unprecedented’ is not a bad word.  Of course, it brings with it its challenges and trials, but it also brings opportunities,” the President told the gathered Assemblymen.

“Opportunities to re-imagine and re-engineer how we do business.  It gives a wonderful opportunity to think whether or not we can serve better,” Her Excellency said.

According to the PDP deputy political leader, Farley Augustine, the deadlock presents the perfect opportunity to make the necessary constitutional changes that will ensure scenarios like the present deadlock are not repeated.

He maintains that calling a new election without making legislative changes is a waste of time, as there are serious gaps in the legislation.

“You all have been wasting time with the Tobago Autonomy Bill issue.  This has been languishing for donkey’s years,” Farley Augustine argues. 

“Please, let’s just fix it now, and upon fixing it, then we can have fresh elections that will give us a fresh mandate, and which will not result in the kind of mathematical tie that we have now,” he says.

The newly sworn in Assemblymen in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) raise a toast to the new Assembly Legislature with President Weekes, on Thursday 28 January 2021. (Image courtesy the Assembly Legislature of the Tobago House of Assembly)