Constitutional attorney Martin George says the only way to ensure a deadlock of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) does not happen again is for parliamentarians to change the THA Act to include a 13th constituency.
The People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) both won six seats in the THA election on Monday, leaving the Assembly deadlocked.
Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew to host Natalee Legore, George, who is also the head of the Tobago Business Chamber, said the only possible solution to the current impasse is to head back to the polls.
He said the assemblymen can be sworn in and once they can reach an agreement, they can vote for the Assembly to be dissolved.
He said it would then be the remit of the President, Paula-Mae Weekes, to set a date after consultation with the Prime Minister. George said the THA Act calls for consultation with the Chief Secretary but since there is none currently in office, the President can proceed.
But even if this is done, George said there needs to be constitutional reform adding that otherwise, both parties can find themselves in the same position after a second election.
“Clearly I would think in the interregnum of the two to three-month period when you have to call an election, the Parliament can come together and do the responsible, mature thing and ensure that the legislation is amended so you move the number of constituencies in Tobago from 12 to 13. You have to make it 13. You have to make it 13 so you avoid this debacle ever occurring again,” George said.
He said this may require a special majority to pass in the Parliament but he does not see that being an obstacle.
“I can’t see any of our politicians from either side being so churlish as to not want to participate in something like this which would obviously resolve this imbroglio. When we had the 18/18, there was not much difficulty in convincing people that they had to change the number to the nearest prime number, which was 41 which was why both sides agreed,” he said.
Asked to give his opinion on the possible outcome of another election, George said the PNM has lost ground with its Tobago supporters, while the PDP has gained.
“I think the PDP has clearly established momentum and they will be able to capitalize on that, I think their supporters are hyped because if you moved from two to six seats, then clearly you have gained. The PNM on the other hand have lost ground, lost momentum. The population has made it clear that the tokens and trinkets and shiny baubles that you present to me a couple of days or couple of weeks, those are not cutting it anymore.”
George said the electorate has made it clear that although they are grateful for the ‘trinkets’, those things are not enough to win over their votes.