Despite Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s statement that the Government will give the issue of Tobago’s self-government “highest priority”, some Tobagonians do not believe it will happen any time soon.
Speaking in Parliament on October 5 during the presentation of the 2021 fiscal package, Imbert assured Tobagonians ” the bill …will be accorded the highest priority in the new legislative term.”
He said he hoped to get the opposition’s support for its passage.
Stanley Beard, former Tobago House of Assembly Tourism Secretary said the announcement is a nine-day wonder.
“No, I do not believe anything will happen…In the last 40 years when it was presented, there was a hoo-ha about it for the first couple of months, then we go back to another story.”
Beard, who assisted in fine-tuning the THA’s Acts # 37of 1980 and #40 of 1996, said two issues must be addressed for the bill to move forward.
” Tobago must speak with one voice. The People’s National Movement has to put a non-partisan team together. There has to be a time determinant when the bill is to be completed,” Beard told Guardian Media.
David Walker, a Corporate Finance Consultant and activist, shared a similar sentiment. He said it would take “a bipartisan approach to get the bill passed. “
The PMM cannot pass the bill without opposition support as it needs a three- fifths majority to become law.
” All of this depends on the other party (United National Congress) supporting the bill. I don’t expect the opposition to agree with what is put forward first, and the outcome will depend to what extent the ruling party is prepared to compromise.”
“If the ruling party takes a high-handed approach, then nothing is going to happen. We will arrive at the next election and still be waiting,” he added.
However, Walker said the focus on greater self-government is “shortsighted.”
” We need to build an economy first. To pay our way in the world alongside gaining self-government. The two must be hand-in-hand.”
Guardian Media reached out to the UNC to find out if they will support the bill.
Anita Hayes, the party’s Public Relations Officer, said,” The party will have to caucus and then come to a consensus.”
The motion for self-government was first taken to Parliament by ANR Robinson in 1977.
It was sent to a Joint Select Committee(JSC) for consideration. Eventually, some aspects of it were adopted, resulting in THA’s Act #37 of 1980, and subsequently Act #40 of 1996.
Former Chief Secretary Orville London led a Forum of Political Parties. The group consisted of the PNM, Hochoy Charles- then leader of the Platform of Truth, and Ashworth Jack- leader of the Tobago Organization of the People. Jack attended only the initial meeting.
There was widespread consultation on the bill.
The bill was sent to Cabinet and is before a parliamentary JSC chaired by Minister Camille Robinson-Regis.