The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) has called off any future talks with the Progressive Democratic Patriots(PDP) about shared governance of Tobago and will await either the completion of the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) work on the Tobago House of Assembly(Amendment) Act,2021 or the passage of The Constitution(Amendment) Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2018.
However, talks will continue if the PDP is willing to follow the Tobago House of Assembly’s Act #40 of 1996.
This is according to the Island Council’s leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine.
Responding to the PDP’s leader Watson Duke’s March 20 statement on Facebook that all deals are off the table, Davidson-Celestine told Guardian Media a day later,” Given that all deals are off the table … we await the passage of the bill to trigger the next elections.”
“We will not allow the PDP leader Watson Duke to bully us. If he isn’t prepared to accept the law then he makes it difficult for us to move forward. His public rants are not encouraging and clearly what the PDP is attempting to do is to create a parallel Executive Council which doesn’t auger well for the good governance of the island.”
Davidson-Celestine added: “His recent statements also indicate that he now wishes to go back to the house to do something that we have not succeeded in doing up to this point. Duke must understand that if we don’t operate within the mechanism afforded to us, that the THA operations will be brought into chaos.”
She continued:” Watson Duke has cursed the THA Act and has cursed anyone who has indicated that the Act should be followed. What therefore is he saying to the people of Tobago?”
She said the PNM’s position remains consistent.
“We are willing to negotiate, but only within the confines of the ACT. The PDP leader must put Tobago first.”
One of the PDP’s deputy leaders Farley Augustine said the PNM’s Island Council’s interpretation of the Tobago House of Assembly’s Act #40 of 1996 is “flawed,” as the PNM turned down the PDP’s appeal for specific portfolios in the Tobago House of Assembly’s(THA) nine divisions, whose Secretaries form the Executive Council.
The PNM has disagreed, saying it would be “counterproductive” if the Chief Secretary could not appoint Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries “in his or her sole discretion.” The PNM offered the PDP four of the nine appointed positions.
On that issue, Augustine said: “There is absolutely no tenant of the THA Act that forbids us from publicly disclosing beforehand how we are going to divide the Divisions between both parties. The PNM wants us to give them a blank cheque. They want us to buy a cat in a bag. They want us to make Mrs Davidson-Celestine Chief Secretary and to leave it all up to her to decide how she and not the team will divide the responsibilities of the Executive Council.”
Both parties won six seats each in the THA elections on January 25. Since then, there has been no new administration and no functioning Legislature.