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Tracy Davidson-Celestine

“Follow the law otherwise, talks are off.”

The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) sounded that warning to the Progressive Democratic Patriots(PDP) on Sunday, in response to the PDP’s leader Watson Duke’s March 20 statement on Facebook that all deals, on the power-sharing arrangement between the two parties, are off.

The island council’s leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine told Guardian Media,” Given that all deals are off the table … we await the passage of (either) bill to trigger the next elections.”

The Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Act (2021) was passed in Parliament and assented to by President Paula-Mae Weekes, giving the Elections and Boundaries Commissions (EBC) 90 days to complete its findings on the increased electoral districts from 12 to 15.

The Constitution (Amendment) Tobago Self-Government) Bill, 2018, requiring a three/fifths majority, is yet to reach Parliament’s floor.

However, Davidson- Celestine said the PNM is willing to continue talks with the PDP if the party is willing to follow the Tobago House of Assembly’s Act #40 0f 1996.

“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.”

She 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.”

Davidson-Celestine 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.”

Early in the negotiations, the PDP offered the PNM the Chief Secretary and Presiding Officer positions. The PDP listed the posts it wants to control. However, the PNM said the THA Act states that the Chief Secretary must have the “flexibility” to appoint Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries at “his or her” sole discretion.”

Both parties won six seats each in the THA elections on January 25, 2021. Since then, the island has neither a new administration nor a functioning Legislature.