Faith B Yisrael

Camille McEachnie

The first face-to-face meeting between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) on March 17 to discuss sharing Tobago’s administrative and legislative power got “a little heated” as both parties could not see eye- to- eye on the interpretation of the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Act #40 of 1996.

During her Public Day Facebook session on Tuesday, one of the PDP’s deputy leaders, Dr Faith B Yisrael gave a peek into the meeting as she sought to educate the public on the THA Act.

“At some point in the conversation (meeting), somebody said, and I won’t say who it is because at that point it got a little heated. The person said: “The Chief Secretary shall consult with individual members…They kept saying we are trying to break the law.”

She said after examining the THA Act, she wondered where the word “individual” was listed. She said the PNM was “throwing in words at their convenience.”

Since the meeting, there have been public spats, on the issue, between both parties.

The PNM said the PDP “isn’t prepared to accept the law.” While, the PDP said, if the PNM continues to interpret the law “at its convenience,” then “all bets are off,” and it will no longer support the PNM’s nominee for Chief Secretary.

Speaking on her Facebook live, Yisrael read from THA’s Act, Chapter 25:03 (33-2), showing that the party’s request to name secretaries in the THA’s Executive Council is lawful.

“The Chief Secretary shall consult with members before he advises the President by subsection (1) (c),” Yisrael read.

She added: “The act does not say that the Chief Secretary all by himself …without having a conversation with anybody, can make that decision and then send that information to the President.”

She said understanding the THA Act “is not that difficult.”

“All we have been saying is let us have that conversation, let us agree ahead of time so that when the Chief Secretary is … advising the President, it is done having consulted with the Members,” Yisrael added.

She said despite the wording of the Act, the PNM is trying to convince the PDP that “the Chief Secretary has sole responsibility to advice the President…and does not have to speak to anybody before he or she advises the President.”

She said the PDP objected to the PNM’s position, reminding them that both parties had an equal number of seats in the THA’s January 25, 2021 elections.

She said when the PDP specified the positions it wanted, it was in its supporters’ interest, as they too wanted to know, the PDP’s areas of responsibility in the new Assembly.

The PNM said it would hold no further talks with the PDP unless the PDP agrees to “follow the Act .” “ We are willing to negotiate, but only within the confines of the Act,” the PNM said.

The party also said it would wait until the Tobago Autonomy Bill (2018) is passed, or provisions in the Tobago Amendment Bill(2018), passed in Parliament and assented to by President Paula-Mae Weekes, take effect, and fresh elections called.