Heated debate continued yesterday on how the current Tobago House of Assembly (THA) impasse could be resolved.
Panellists on Tobago’s indigenous television station, Channel 5, yesterday held strong opposing views on the decision of the current THA Executive to continue to function.
Economist Dr Vanus James argued that based on his interpretation of the THA Act, Ancil Dennis should have stepped down from the position of Chief Secretary, saying his term ended when the house was dissolved in November 2020.
Dr James said he believed the way forward would be Representative Democracy in the THA so that the people of Tobago could determine what the Executive Council does.
“It’s time for each representative to go back to their committee of Tobagonians to ponder on where we go from here.”
According to Dr James, the THA is badly designed and that would not change even if the number of districts is increased.
Former THA presiding officer and defeated independent candidate for Scarborough/Calder Hall Dr Denise Tsoifatt Angus said a clear definition must be made between the “representative and executive” functions of the THA.
She said while the law provides for the swearing-in of Assemblymen within three days after the elections, the executive arm of the Assembly can only be sworn in by the presiding officer.
She maintained that the existing executive continues in office until a new executive is sworn in.
“There is no new Assembly because the THA is still in a state of dissolution, so someone has to hold down the fort.”
She added the current crisis provides an opportunity to bring a level of consciousness about what true representation is.
“We have to start involving the people more, participatory democracy is something we have to consider seriously to get people involved in saying where we want to go, we cannot continue to leave our people behind by just making decisions on their behalf.”
Attorney Martin George also argued that according to his interpretation of the THA Act, the Chief Secretary and the THA Executive Council remain in office until a new Chief Secretary is sworn in.
“We must get to the position where we fix it. The parliament (must) get to 13 seats, get a new election done and then you go back to what the law allows. Then you can engage in all the constitutional reform and changes to the THA Act but to try and put those changes into effect now are unrealistic and cannot be achieved in a short time frame.”
Political scientist and government relations specialist Dr Shane Mohammed agreed with George’s stance.
“If you were to consider the fact that a number of secretarial positions are now vacant, (THA Chief Secretary Ancil) Dennis can now approach the President to appoint a new secretary for any division and that would certainly give rise to concerns such as lack of accountability and corruption that were raised during the campaign.”