The process to elect a new presiding officer of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will resume today.
Clerk of the THA Legislature Merna McLeod issued a letter to the political leaders of both parties on Friday, asking that both leaders confirm their attendance and the Assemblymen they lead to the session.
According to the correspondence, the session is being convened “In light of the response received in addressing the scheduling of a meeting to continue the election of a Presiding Officer.”
Following last Monday’s 6-6 tie, the 12 elected Assemblymen were sworn in on January 28 by President Paula-Mae Weeks three days after the election, according to law.
However, the sitting ended prematurely when both the PNM and the PDP, were unable to agree on a mutual appointee for the position of presiding officer.
While the PNM nominated attorney Ingrid Melville, the PDP nominated well-known philanthropist and programme coordinator at the Department of Youth Affairs, Julien Skeete.
After four rounds of votes the results remained tied and this, in turn, prevented the selection and subsequent appointment of a new Presiding Officer.
The Clerk of the House them moved to have the sitting dissolved although Deputy Political Leader of the PDP Farley Augustine highlighted Standing Order 92(1) of the THA Act, stating that where the THA Act falls short, Parliament’s Standing Orders should apply.
He proposed the members of the Assembly use a random selection process such as flipping a coin or drawing lots to determine the outcome. McLeod suspended the sitting after saying the House had “exhausted all options to elect a Presiding Officer”.
Once a Presiding Officer is selected it then clears the way for the selection of a Chief Secretary.
According to the THA Act, the Presiding Officer has a casting vote and, once that election ends in a 6-6 stalemate, will decide who will be Tobago’s next Chief Secretary.
The Chief Secretary is responsible for selecting the various Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries.