Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will visit Tobago on March 3 to meet with all elected assemblymen and past and present Tobago House of Assembly (THA) heads.
The Prime Minister’s office yesterday announced Rowley’s upcoming Tobago visit.
The visit will come after debate on the bill for fresh elections and a change in Tobago boundaries from 12 to 15. The bill became necessary after the January 25 THA election result where the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) each got six seats. The deadlock prevented the election of a presiding officer.
The bill was passed in the Lower House last Friday and will be debated in the Senate tomorrow. It requires a simple majority – Government votes only – for passage.
The Office of the Prime Minister stated that apart from the elected assemblymen, Dr Rowley intends on meeting the THA’s Chief Secretary, Ancil Dennis “and all available former Chief Secretaries and Chairmen of the THA”. No further details were given.
UNC MP Dinesh Rambally who spoke at a UNC media briefing yesterday said Government hadn’t consulted Tobagonians on the bill beyond PNM units.
Rambally said the bill seeks to subvert Tobagonians’ will after they voted in recent THA polls and people in Tobago including business organisations were concerned.
He said UNC’s senators will tomorrow continue reinforcing the UNC’s objection to the bill.
He said the bill had political implications as it showed the PNM losing ground in Tobago and that the PNM was bringing the bill to save face and ensure they maintained THA control.
“There’s a shift (in support) occurring and they’re trying to protect themselves,” he said.
Rambally said the UNC hadn’t planned to go to court and it was a matter for the Tobago people to determine. He noted PDP had started legal action. He queried Government’s legal advice on the bill, who did it and who paid for it.
He agreed with views that having instructions on changing Tobago’s seats to 15 would make the independent Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) only have the illusion of independence.
Rambally was concerned about the EBC’s recent response that it was waiting on the bill to be passed to proceed with the work. He said he thought the EBC might have been concerned about how it would make the changes in the short space of time. He noted EBC’s 2020 report on Tobago boundaries that there was no reason to adjust the 12 boundaries.