London, Jack square-off over constitutional reform

By Cordell McClure

Minority Leader Ashworth Jack has said he would stop at nothing to ensure Tobago benefits from the proposed constitutional reform.

Jack was speaking at his bi-monthly media briefing at his Scarborough office on Tuesday. Responding to accusations made by Chief Secretary Orville London one day earlier, Jack hit back saying, London has no moral authority to speak on such matters. In a media briefing at his Calder Hall office on Monday, London accused Jack of betraying the people of Tobago.

The debate centres on the proposed reform of the THA Act as well as aspects of the constitution. London had forwarded a draft THA Amendment bill to the Attorney General after it (the bill) was debated in the House. Jack and his minority members had abstained from that debate, claiming the process was illegal because the THA had no authority to send a bill directly to Cabinet.

However, last Friday, the Office of the Attorney General published a Green Paper for public discussion of the constitution in the Tobago News. This document, which was proposed by a team headed by former diplomat Reggie Dumas is expected to form the basis of constitutional reform for Tobago if the government has its way.

Jack told the media that the first draft proposed by the THA is now null and void because of the process taken by the administration. He said all Tobagonians are now free to use the Green Paper as the basis for discussion on constitution change, giving Tobago the much talked about internal self-government.

"Mr. London has been Chief Secretary for 11 years and 3 months and the only time Mr. London started speaking about internal self-government or autonomy was after the PNM lost the elections in 2012. We make no apologies for having the issue of the reform of the constitution take centre stage because Tobago demands and deserves no less," Jack opined.

The Minority Leader also bashed the leadership of the PNM in Trinidad for staying silent on the issue of constitutional reform. He used this to emphasise the point that there is no real desire by the PNM to see constitutional reform in Tobago. "The Political Leader nor the party in Trinidad has said a single word for or against the issue on the reform of the constitution and that is because the history of the PNM has been that the reform of the constitution would be too much power for Tobago," Jack argued.

The two documents now before the public have a few fundamental differences. One of the main areas of contention is 'who is a Tobagonian.' The Green Paper says someone must be living in Tobago for three months to be able to vote. London is insisting that only people living in Tobago for four years must be allowed to vote in THA elections. Jack argued that the three months proposed in the Green Paper is in keeping with the Representation of the People Act. "If the whole of Tobago feels strongly about it, I am quite sure it will come up and the government will get the message that this is what Tobago wants. Anytime the government is doing a major amendment to the constitution, they usually put out a Green Paper for public comment that informs the final draft of your bill and this is what is happening. It is not that the government has taken the advice of a small committee and gone to parliament," the TOP Political Leader told the media.

But even when the Green Paper makes its way to Parliament, the PP government will need a 2/3 majority to pass the bill. This means the government will need at least two PNM votes. Jack is hopeful this will be achieved. Failing this, he said, the people of Tobago would deal with the PNM accordingly.

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Anonymous said on Monday, Mar 26 at 2:25 PM

I must say that i agree with london,no outsider should be able to vote under four years of living in the country,this is mature and wise thinking,it helps to go through the process much more smoothly and with less nuisiance from outsiders trying to destroy the process.If asworth thinks otherwise he should not be the one leading this process ,because his understanding is all too limiting.

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the virginian said on Thursday, Mar 15 at 1:22 PM

My Home,I have one objection,Germany doesn't belong.The Germans have the most robust and technologically advanced economy in all of Europe while,perhaps,enjoying the highest standard of living as well.And,in passing,I'm sure you know they manufacture the creme de la creme,viz, Mercedes Benz as well as BMW.So,'til next time.

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Drunk Man said on Wednesday, Mar 14 at 11:17 PM

De mashin'up Tobago nah boy ! But the Door swings both ways. If THA worried about vote padding, then 2 could play that game !!! Only a fool will stand fast and take licks nah boy !

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citylimer said on Wednesday, Mar 14 at 3:55 PM

UN's 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone should apply. The marine time space North of Tobago has tremendous potential for generating significant revenues from Oil & Gas, and fishing. Caribbean Pipe Line et al. Tobago's contribution to GDP will significantly increase thus Tobago's eligibility for an 8% share of the budget is justified. Additionally with a small voting indigenous population any potential for voter padding should be TOTALLY eliminate by way of strict residency time frames if DEMOCRACY IS TO PREVAIL.

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citylimer said on Wednesday, Mar 14 at 3:44 PM

The Colonial Masters were never so disrespectful as this PP/TOP. In fact they are the ones who established the FIRST TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.

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citylimer said on Wednesday, Mar 14 at 3:39 PM


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the virginian said on Sunday, Mar 11 at 4:57 PM

I fully comprehend what you're articulating,Anonymous,but my thinking is that if central government must continue to provide funding for Tobago under any scenario,this is an opening that will enable it to conspicuously or clandestinely meddle in the affiars of Tobago by manipulating funding.You know fully well that power,authority and control aren't easily relinquished.That should be of concern to you folks.Shouldn't it?Maybe I'm reading too much into the Tobago experiment.Can't help myself,I'm a stickler for details.

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the virginian said on Sunday, Mar 11 at 1:24 PM

Big or little AL,whichever your preference,what does "Tobago's independence"mean to you and Tobagonians on the whole?What is it?Is it absolute determination and control,no outside input or interference,in matters pertaining to Tobago unless expressly requested by a majority of Tobagonians through their legislators or is it a form of hybrid independence?In other words we Tobagonians will have authority over and be responsible for,say,A,B,C and central government has sole authority and resposibility for the,say,D,which is essentially the overall security and ancillary matters of the island? If anyone of these conditions is true,from where does Tobago derive its resources for self-support?This apparently takes us back to square one,that is,as I've said previously,the one controlling the purse determines its distributions regardless of any constitutional codifications.Why you ask?If the objective is to skin the cat,you know there're several approaches.

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Al said on Sunday, Mar 11 at 9:51 AM

I think that we in Tobago need independence and anyone proposing anything short of independence is looking for a parent figure that will provide everything for you.

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Desuperman said on Sunday, Mar 11 at 9:00 AM

Maybe it was not an issue before because the country has never had such a devious dangerous and untrustworthy government in office before. Not even the UNC was this bad. But this one is capable of doing anything, especially with a 29 seat advantage, including voter padding. And I will NEVER forget that email that circulated after the General Election in 2010, which spoke of them "coming for Tobago next" since they already have "power" in Trinidad (meaning the Indians) and "Tobago people stupid and will sell them their lands". I didn't make this up since I saw the email and it cannot be dismissed as "ole talk". We have certainly seen the changes in Tobago and nothing must be taken for granted, especially by people who are obsessed with political,economical,financial,academical and territorial power. And the possibility of voter padding is REAL.

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bagoman said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 4:04 PM

what is d present residency eligibility to vote in any part of tnt according to the law? how come this was not an issue before? hummmmmm!

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the virginian said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 10:22 AM

As I understand it,most countries,including the US,recognize a 12-mile,perhaps 10 nautical miles,off their coastline as their territorial waters with a 200-mile economic zone recognition.Okay,if this were to be correct,and I don't know if it's so,then wouldn't a 200-mile Tobago economic zone present some seemingly irreconcilable issues with Trinidad and possibly Barbados,Greneda and Venezuela?Based on this,I don't think a 200-mile territorial water recognition is tenable or enforceable.A bit confusing,but what's your take on this?Of course,at the end of the day, all of us should want the most advantageous deal,no holds barred,for Tobago.

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atlanta gonian said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 9:41 AM

You know why they say 10 miles because they can sell all those gas/oil blocks around the northeast and east,southbysoutheast blocks around Tobago that has huge potential.Tobago will have no input in how it is being bosses,the number of players involved,the impact it may have on their enviroment.If there is a BP like oil spill,and Tobago economy is affected who is going to give compensation to tobagonians?No royalty arrangements to Tobago.,because Tobagonians don't need to know what's going on,leave it to them,scince they think that they are smarter than us and we should go on with pur simple lives

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Desuperman said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 2:18 AM

Correction: This document allows a Trinidadian resident to come and "work" here for three months or more, the opportunity to vote in an election even if he is not a legitimate resident.

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Desuperman said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 2:13 AM

Certainly, this Green Paper CANNOT be acepted by any right thinking Tobagonian. It is even more baffling why would Ashworth accept this and also want Tobagonians to accept it. This is a document which gives a Trinidadian resident comes here to "work" with any contractor, the opportunity vote in an election even if he is not a legitimate resident. And also to accept 10 nautical miles around the island as it's boundries and not the 200 mile zone, which is stipulated by International Law and which gives us the right to claim the oil and gas wich is supposed to be in our territory. How on earth this can be genuinely call "full autonomy"? This is absolute madness coming from someone who aspires to be "in charge" of Tobago. But I do believe that with education and understanding that this "Trinidad Green Paper" (supported by the Tobago News) will be rejected by the majority of Tobagonians.

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atlanta gonian said on Friday, Mar 9 at 12:25 PM

virginian,i thirdly agree with you,quite right and you are saying this even though people like you,D mouse and I will be affected from it if and when we decide to come home to live and contribute.It will be "taxation without representation".Secondly the maritime boundaries need to be extended to 200 miles as in the jones paper and not 10 miles as the Trinidadian Government has put forward.Need to publish these papers online so they can be dissected and discussed.

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D Mouse said on Friday, Mar 9 at 12:05 PM

@virginian : I Second that and 99% of Tobagonians second that feeling.

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the virginian said on Friday, Mar 9 at 11:36 AM

Folks,a 3-month residency eligibility for suffrage as a Tobagonian is woefully inadequate,in my view,and could lead to significant vote padding one way or another.Perhaps,it should be a person enjoying full civil rights of a citizen of T&T residing in Tobago for at least three years uninterrupted by not more than three consecutive months.

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Long Mango said on Friday, Mar 9 at 4:45 AM

Now is the time for the people to register their views on this very important matter,so why is the chief secretary howling about the place,it because he believes that all ah we stupid and he alone has the answer.But Mr Man just give us a break,and register your concerns on the green paper.

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