Are Jack and the TOP Tobagonians?
This column notes with interest that of late and in defence of the selfish stance taken by the TOP leader and some of his members in support of the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan's Green Paper, Mr Jack often says that Mr London and the PNM have no moral authority to speak of greater autonomy for Tobago.
In a two part series, this column would share some of the history of Tobago's autonomy that leaves to question whether Mr Jack and the TOP have lost their vision where autonomy is concerned for this island and the foundation that would have been laid by their forerunners.
Some may argue that our fight for autonomy began with "Sandy the slave" but we should be mindful of Bob Marley's admonishment that though our shackles were removed, mental slavery is our greatest risk.
However, this column begins its review at the point when ANR Robinson's motion was presented in Parliament on the 14th January 1977 and read "Be it resolved that this Honourable House is of the opinion that all proper and necessary steps should be taken to accord the people of Tobago Internal Self Government in 1977".
During that debate on Tobago which was described as a "Special case", and lasted four days, one of the poignant points made was that Tobagonians should govern themselves and secure the economic development of their own land. The process finally came to a decision when on the 23rd September 1980, the late Sir Ellis Clarke, then President assented to the Act 37 of 1980 that created the first Tobago House of Assembly and elections were subsequently held on September 24, 1980.
This resulted in the DAC winning eight of the twelve seats capturing 53% of the votes and P.N.M. 44% of the votes and four seats. ANR Robinson became Chairman of the Assembly and from that time to now, the functions and responsibilities of the Assembly have been an issue.
This column reminds its readers that on 30th September 1982, the then Assembly defended its authority under Act 37 of 1980 when a motion for a just and acceptable union between Trinidad & Tobago was raised by the then Deputy Chairman Dr Jefferson Davidson and stated: "Whereas the union between the Islands of Trinidad and of Tobago being a colonial one was contrary to the will of the people of Tobago; whereas despite the transition of the colony of Trinidad from British colonialism to Independence, the Island of Tobago continues to be forcefully kept in subjection to the will of the people of Trinidad by neo- colonial policies emanating from that Island; and whereas repeated constitutional mandates given to its duly elected representatives by the electorate of Tobago to seek Internal self-Government for Tobago within the Unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago have met with lack of sympathy, indifference and arrogance from the Government in Trinidad; be it resolved that this House of Assembly takes all proper and necessary steps to terminate the present unjust union of Tobago with Trinidad and to secure either its replacement with a union based on terms and conditions acceptable to the authorised representatives of the people of Tobago or the full Independence of Tobago with secure Territorial Boundaries".
This motion by Davidson clearly indicates the on-going challenges that Tobagonians have experienced in an attempt to define and distinguish themselves in the milieu of a twin island country. Today it is no different where the Assembly Bills which hold the views of Tobagonians, that have been submitted to Trinidad have been ignored. Tobagonians quest for defining who is a Tobagonian and to have its territorial boundaries defined within a unitary state, where the maximum point is 200 nautical miles as defined by international marine law and the economic zone, are not being heard.
This column questions whether Mr. Ashworth Jack is aware of this position way back then, a DAC position and a NAR position or is it intentional with the posture he is now taking that moves the TOP away from the previous stance to give Tobago a border of only 10 miles offshore.
The issue of what is Tobago that was not meaningfully described by A.G. Ramlogan's Green Paper to which Mr. Jack and the TOP fully support, is not new and continues to be a major issue for Tobago. This column then asks: "Mr. Jack, do you remember that your party under another name approved a "Tobago Development Plan (1981 - 1990)?" "Mr. Jack, do you remember chart two and chart three after page 52 in that plan?" The TOP ought to remember that those charts reflect maps of what was believed then to be Tobago's natural resources.
On behalf of Tobagonians, this column requests Mr. Jack to explain what does moving from six (6) to ten (10) nautical miles provide to Tobago as supported by him in that Green Paper? Why not 50, 100 or even 200? Unlike the "Green Paper".
During the tenure of the late Lennox Denoon as Chairman of the THA, Prime Minister Patrick Manning discussed with Denoon the possibility of setting up some URP projects in Tobago because several persons from Tobago were saying to the PM that they could not get jobs.
Denoon rejected the offer on the grounds that URP in Tobago was the function of the Assembly; the Prime Minister had to respect that. Today the Minority Leader of the THa has supported the Prime Minister to set up a CEPEP office in Tobago and is encouraging the Government via the Ministers to break the law and interfere with the Assembly's functions, as in the case of Jack's recent meetings and decisions with Devant Maraj that has resulted in yet again fooling Tobagonians about a 24 hour airport facility.
This column is of the view that Jack and the TOP have lost their way and are misleading Tobagonians in support of the Anand Ramlogan Green Paper; and that the two Assembly Bills are the firm and legitimate demand of Tobagonians for equality and respect. Tobagonians must decide what is best for Tobago.
THE Tobago Council
OF THE PNM