The Tobago question
The national government has gone on the offensive with the much anticipated constitutional changes as it relates to the Tobago/Trinidad relationship. As was reported, the government has published a green paper which has incorporated all the submitted views on the issue. The intention of the Government to take the Green Paper around the island for public consultation must be commended.
The question of the Tobago relationship between Tobago and Trinidad has been a contentious issue for a very long time. Since the British colonial authorities decided to join Tobago with Trinidad during the 1880s, there have always been demands by Tobagonians for a better deal within the relationship. During the 1950s, the Tobago cause was championed by then Tobago nationalist APT James. During the 1960s, the more extreme rhetoric of medical doctor Rhodil Norton took center stage in the Tobago/Trinidad issue. Norton was actually proposing the secession of Tobago from Trinidad. However, Norton never had the massive support required for such a move.
It is important to note that the PNM Government headed by Dr Eric Williams never saw it fit to propose any initiative on the Tobago/Trinidad relationship. The historical truths will reveal that it was the peoples’ uprising of 1970 which brought the Tobago situation to national attention. Back then, the poverty and exploitation of the Tobagonian was exposed by the 1970 movement. The upheavals eventually forced the resignation of the Tobago east Parliamentary representative ANR Robinson from the PNM Government.
By 1977 the struggle for more autonomy for Tobago had intensified with Robinson taking the fight to the PNM Government. By 1980, the first Tobago House of Assembly elections were held and thus began the new status of the Tobago/Trinidad relationship. In 1996 the THA Act was enhanced to give more powers to the THA. Then in 1999, Hochoy Charles the then Chief Secretary fought the UNC Government and secured more funding for the THA. When the PNM took control of the THA the Tobago/Trinidad relationship was put on ice because the expressed view was, “PNM in Trinidad; PNM in Tobago” was best for Tobago.
However, all that changed when the PNM Government was swept from office. The Tobago PNM for some reasons known to them suddenly took up the struggle for Tobago, while those in opposition in Tobago who could justly lead the Tobago struggle responded. Hence, we are where we are at present.
We will be closely following the next chapter in this quest for Tobago’s governance. We also praise the PP Government for sticking to their campaign promise of granting more autonomy for Tobago.