The Joint Select Committee of Parliament recently laid its report on giving Tobago greater autonomy in the form of two draft bills- Constitution Amendment (Tobago Self Government) Bill (2021) and Tobago Island Government Bill (2021).
A document with Tobago’s wishes was sent to Cabinet in the form of a draft bill.
Here is what prominent Tobagonians had to say about the new drafts.
1) Tracy Davidson- Celestine
Political Leader- Tobago Council- People’s National Movement (PNM)
This is a historic moment for Tobago and these bills represent a significant step and a pathway for greater autonomy, equality of status with Trinidad; a more impactful financial structure for the island, and lawmaking powers. I urge all Tobagonians and Political Parties to rally around this last opportunity because this is something we can work with and build upon.
2) Farley Augustine
Deputy leader- Progressive Democratic Patriots
The bills are incomplete and are deliberately left that way. It is a great situational irony that bills to grant Tobago the right to self-determination and equality of status with Trinidad, in so many ways, ignore the desires of the people of Tobago.
3) Ancil Dennis- PNM’s area representative – Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant
The bills, in their current form while not perfect, are better than the first version and put Tobago in a position of far greater responsibilities and resources than we ever had. Autonomy is not a matter of finality; it is a journey.
4) Hochoy Charles-
Former Chief Secretary and chairman of One Tobago Voice
The entire bill must be rejected by the people of Tobago having regard to the conversation we are having. There is no structure in the bill.
5) Kwesi Des Vignes
Former Leader of Assembly Business- PNM
As Tobagonians, we are at a crossroads in the journey towards greater autonomy. Future generations will either look back at this moment with great reverence as one in which we all came together and made a major step forward or with chagrin because ego, political and personal ambition were more important than Tobago’s progress.
6) Dr. Winford James
The bills are a reversal of many good autonomy ideas from 2016 and earlier. I stand resolutely against them.
7) Dr. Vanus James
These Bills fail to deliver to Tobago the promised equality of status or self-determination and should be rejected on that basis alone. However, they also include provisions that will effectively make Tobago a colony of Trinidad and severely damage the economic diversification and development prospects of the country.
8) Stanley Beard
Former THA Secretary and member of Unaligned Tobago Politicians
The bills presented will not advance the cause and needs of Tobagonians. Tobagonians must be responsible for charting a course and the pace of development on the island.
9) Shirley Cooke
Vice president- Crown Point Business Association
The provisions in the bills do not reflect the right to self-determination and equality of status as listed in the Amended Constitution. The period allowed for Tobagonians to adequately peruse and consult on the Joint Select Committee proposal is insufficient.
10) Deborah Moore- Miggins- Former assemblyman and only independent candidate to ever win a seat in the THA elections
The bills are contradictory within themselves and are inconsistent in several respects with what Tobago people have expressly said what they want and should be withdrawn. They take us back to before 1996 and are totally unacceptable.