PDP leader Watson Duke and one of his deputy political leader Farley Augustine show the pre-action protocol letter they are delivering to the THA's Clerk Myrna McLeod. (Image courtesy PDP)

Almost two hours before Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley led the debate in Parliament on the Tobago Amendment Bill 2021 on Friday, the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) delivered a pre-action protocol letter to Clerk of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Myrna McLeod.

The six PDP assemblymen who gathered at James Park, Scarborough, for a press conference, took the two-minute walk to the Assembly chamber to deliver the letter.  It was stamped as received by the Clerk’s Office.  The press conference and walk were carried live.

The letter was copied also to the Solicitor General and the six Assemblymen from the People’s National Movement (PNM), who were sworn-in by President Paula-Mae Weekes on January 28th, alongside their PDP colleagues.  All 12 Assemblymen won their seats in the January 25th THA elections.

The party’s leader, Watson Duke, said the clerk must reply to the letter by February 24th, or face legal action.  He said the party consulted with Edward Fitzgerald QC and Joseph Middleton, both of the United Kingdom.  Trinidad and Tobago’s laws are fashioned after British laws.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is taking legislative action to break the THA deadlock caused by the absence of a Presiding Officer in the Assembly for the new term scheduled to begin on January 28th.  Without the officer, the Assembly cannot be properly reconstituted.  The PM is proposing to increase the number of electoral districts from 12 to 15 and implement a measure to break the existing and any new deadlocks.

The post of the Presiding Officer was not filled as the 12 elected Assemblymen—six PDP and six PNM—voted for their party’s chosen candidate.  This resulted in a tie.

The Assembly met three times since the 12 elected Assemblymen were sworn in by President Paula-Mae Weekes on January 28th. However, on each occasion, attempts to elect the Presiding Officer ended in a tie.

This is the first time in the Assembly’s history elections have ended in a tie.