Prime Minister Dr.Keith Rowley has called on Tobagonians to garner support in Parliament for the two drafts of the Tobago autonomy bills laid in Parliament on June 9 by the Joint Select Committee (JCS) tasked with looking into greater autonomy for the island.
He said the drafts would be debated soon.
The drafts, Constitution Amendment (Tobago Self Government) Bill and Tobago Island Government Bill (2020), drew from a document sent from Tobago to Cabinet for review.
Created after extensive consultation in Tobago, Trinidad, and the region, it seeks to redefine the island’s constitutional arrangement and give Tobago more administrative control.
Speaking on Tobago Channel 5’s morning talk show with host Deryck Brathwaite (Brother B) yesterday, Rowley expressed surprised after hearing many Tobagonians did not agree with the drafts.
Brathwaite told the PM residents queried issues such as the island’s geographical boundaries, annual budgetary allocations, legal and administrative responsibilities.
Rowley, who is also the leader of the People’s National Movement, said those who “disdainfully disagreed’ with the drafts “want to walk the same road twice” if they are seeking to have them reviewed.
He said Tobagonians, which made up approximately 4.2 per cent of the population, were getting their fair share of the nation’s resources.
“The quality of life in Tobago as supported by the State is far better in Tobago than it is in many parts of Trinidad.. . The people in Trinidad who you are asking to give you (these bills), many of them are in a worse position than you,” the PM said.
He said 73 per cent of Trinidadians supported the drafts.
“What has been proposed here for Tobago, by national polling, has a 73 per cent support…so if Tobago wants to reject (the drafts), you on your own with that,” Rowley said.
He said Government did its part by selecting a committee and laying the drafts before Parliament for debate.
He warned that the drafts might not pass as they required a three-fourths majority. He said the PNM’s 22 parliamentarians would support them. However, the Opposition’s support is required.
“ I cannot tell you that this bill will pass… You see the PNM haters, the best thing they can do for Tobago now if you have any influence with the UNC is to ask them to support this bill,” the PM said.