In his New Year's message to Tobago, Minority Leader Ashworth Jack promised to place the issue of constitutional reform on the front burner in 2012.
While noting that 2011 has been a mixed year for Tobagonians, the Minority Leader knocked the London-led THA for providing 'limited access to health care' in Tobago. He said Health services in Moriah remain non-existent and in Charlotteville and other areas, access to district health services has been difficult for residents.
He also said that the service at the Accident and Emergency (Casualty) Department continues to be inordinately slow despite the many attempts to remedy this age old issue. He however, commended health care professionals in Tobago for performing to the best of their ability in spite of the challenges.
Jack claimed the level of poverty in some households has risen, evidenced by the increased number of unemployed Tobagonians. He said that in the absence of a vibrant private sector and given the reduced fortunes of the ailing tourism industry, the demand for social support has increased.
He also bashed the London administration for failing to provide the framework for employment for young, qualified Tobagonians. Jack said immediate strategies must be developed and implemented to harness the full benefit of the available human resource pool as all of us have a part to play in the development of the island.
"In spite of many promises, work on major projects in Tobago drags on and Tobagonians continue to pay a high price for the inability of the THA Executive to deliver these projects: another cohort of Tobago students have made it through exams without a functioning library while money is being spent to redesign this facility for cosmetic reasons. Cultural events in Tobago continue to be hosted in car parks and other makeshift facilities without proper accommodation and acoustics, while the purpose built Cultural Complex project continues to languish," Jack said.
He went on to say that no new houses have been added to the THA's housing stock for the last three years and the distribution of the few available units has not been transparent.
He accused The Department of Housing of stopping new applications, adding that no developed lots for building have come on stream this year.
Jack also noted that traffic problems in and out of Scarborough have worsened. He blamed this on the absence of a working traffic management plan.
According to the Minority Leader, the coming on stream of new roads in the network has created additional hardship for Tobagonians. Jack added that the much needed beautification of Scarborough has not been given the urgent attention it needs.
"In fact, plans have existed since 2000 for both traffic management and the beautification of Scarborough, which if implemented would have eliminated the many problems now faced by Tobagonians," Jack said.
The TOP Leader also raised the issue of constitutional reform for Tobago. He said constitutional reform was within reach this past year as the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, for the first time in its 49 years of Independence, has written on two occasions to the Tobago House of Assembly registering its commitment to full internal self-government and seeking the THA's input in this process.
"The THA, instead of quickly coming on board, has sought to score political points by means of manipulations of the truth and the consultative process. We wish to remind Tobagonians that this process has been ongoing for more than 40 years and the events of 2011 have been the closest the island has come to realising this dream.
"We therefore continue to advocate placing island before party and before self and we use this opportunity to assure Tobagonians that I as Minority Leader and the Tobago Organisation of the People will continue to do all within its power to ensure that Tobago gets full internal self-government in 2012."