Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally.

Moves to change Tobago’s electoral seats from 12 to 15 to prevent a tie wouldn’t work since a third force may possibly enter politics ahead and a Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election could still end up in a 5-5-5 tie, says UNC MP Dinesh Rambally.

He added that fresh THA elections will see heightened campaigning exposing Tobagonians to more COVID-19 danger.

Rambally put these points to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday in Parliament in debate on the THA Amendment Bill. This is to facilitate fresh election after the January 25 THA elections produced a deadlocked result. This resulted in inability to elect a presiding officer to start the Assembly operations including electing a Chief Secretary.

Rambally questioned the expansion of Tobago seats to 15, noting that the independent Election and Boundaries Commission’s reports of 2016 and 2020 had stated that no boundary adjustments were necessary.

“Who is to say if a third force might not come forward, that’s a possibility for the future. If it did happen, instead of a 6-6 tie we’d have gotten with the 12 seats, with three parties there could be a 5-5-5 tie instead. What will happen then?” he added.

“How can you say the 15 seats will cure the tie problem when in the future you can have the same tie you’re trying to prevent?”

He said the Joint Select Committee report on Tobago autonomy which proposed 15 seats still had to have more consultation.

Rambally, who said the Opposition was against the bill, added that Government should give proper credence to the will of the people in Tobago and new law would seek to disenfranchise voters’ action of January 25 when they chose their representatives.”

“I know the PNM was taken by surprise with the results and were shocked. But we’re seeing an attempt to make a backward adjustment of the will of the electorate in Tobago with this bill.”

Rambally condemned what he said was moves to affect those who’d chosen to exercise their franchise and vote on January 25 since the new law would retrospectively take away that right they exercised.

“That can’t be right.”

Rather than destroy the rights of thousands of Tobagonians who voted, Rambally said there should be institution of the law that will facilitate rather than prohibit appointment of a presiding officer.

Noting PNM’s criticisms that UNC hadn’t contested elections in Tobago, Rambally said the UNC had all moral authority to speak when Tobagonians’ rights were being trampled upon.

He also said there would obviously be intensified campaigning for the election with people vying to outdo each other.

“Can T&T withstand that type of energy in a pandemic?”

Noting Rowley’s statement that he’d gotten legal advice on the issue, Rambally said Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, an attorney had given correct advice on the matter.

He said it was ironic Rowley had started talking of lawyers in the issue. He said the PNM had a penchant for criticising lawyers when they stood up for people’s rights.

—Gail Alexander