“A public relations stunt.”
That is how the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) describes Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s decision to meet with the 12 elected Assemblymen – six PDP and six People’s National Movement (PNM), on March 3.
The meeting was announced via a news release from the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
It comes more than two months after the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election and the failures to have the Assembly constituted on January 28 because the Assemblymen refused to agree on a suitable Presiding Officer. The unprecedented situation created an impasse.
On Friday, Dr Rowley led debate in Parliament on the THA Amendment Bill which seeks to create a resolution. It was passed with a simple majority, clearing the way for fresh THA elections with an increased number of seats from 12 to 15.
Commenting on the planned meeting, one of the PDP’s deputy leaders Farley Augustine said it is a “PR stunt.”
“Dr Rowley is putting the cart before the horse. What he should have done first, he now doing. He should have held this meeting before the THA’s Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament last Friday,” Augustine said in a brief telephone interview with Guardian Media.
The PDP has been on record as saying it was open to dialogue to end the deadlock. The party also lamented publicly that Dr Rowley had never met with them to discuss the situation and the way forward.
However, from the onset, the Tobago Council of the PNM said it is interested in new THA elections with an increased number of electoral districts and would make no deals with the PDP.
On February 19, the PDP hand-delivered a pre-action protocol letter to the THA’s Clerk Myrna McLeod. The letter gives her until Wednesday, February 24, to reconvene the house and make another attempt to elect a presiding officer.
The clerk had tried on three different days to get the assemblymen to vote for one presiding officer. On the last occasion, she ended the meeting without setting a new date.