The PNM continues to be Tobago's enemy
Since 1956 the PNM had set an agenda against Tobago. They labelled Tobago as the bastard child, the sister isle and many ungodly names.
The PNM starved Tobago of goods and services and brought Tobagonians into a position where people were treated as sub-human beings. There were statements like Tobagonians will eat grass, and Tobago can leave if they want. There were actions intended to frustrate the progress of the Ministry of Tobago Affairs, and insufficient money to carry out Tobago's development.
The PNM has frustrated constitutional reform since in the 1970's and has kept Tobago depressed and void of development. Tobago did not progress under the PNM then and has not progressed under the PNM presently. The PNM is now trying to frustrate constitutional reform again in Tobago by purporting a number of unworkable concepts. The PNM concepts will disfranchise a number of Tobagonians, deplete the level of autonomy that the TOP has fought for over the years and create chaos within the protection of Tobago waters. Therefore, constitutional reform must be meaningful and must serve the entire population of Tobago and by extension Trinidad and Tobago.
For constitutional reform to be meaningful there must be serious changes within the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. For the THA to have greater autonomy, Section 75.1 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago must be amended. The PNM is trying to superficially drift over the major issue, that the laws enshrined in the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago have to change to accommodate constitutional changes for Tobago. The PNM is giving the impression that the bills they laid in the "House" are a done deal. This cannot be so as the focus of the proposed THA amendments were the THA Act and not the Constitution. The PNM promised Tobagonians that they would have been given the opportunity to review their final document and make comments and there would have been further consultation on their final document. In true PNM style they reneged on their promise and moved right ahead and imposed on Tobago and Tobagonians a mediocre document that did not fully reflect the views of all Tobagonians. The PNM, in the rush to score political points, employed the wrong method to lay the Bills in the "House" and they are now trying to defend the indefensible.
The PNM is proposing that persons have to live in Tobago for four consecutive years before they are allowed to vote in Tobago House of assembly elections. This suggestion is contrary to the Representation of the People Act which only requires three months at a particular address in order to be eligible to be transferred from one electoral district to another. In developed countries like the United Kingdom and United States of America one just has to enter the country legally and within days your name is on the voters' registrar. Once your name appears on the voters' registrar you can vote immediately once there is an election in the country.
The PNM is further trying to hoodwink Tobagonians on the issue of Tobago's marine space. The TOP agrees that Tobago's marine space must be defined and that would be rightly done with this new constitution amendment. However, Tobago's marine space must be negotiated as it is important to note that the Tobago House of Assembly is not fully in charge of security. If the Central Government is in charge of marine security it is clear that the central government will have some level of control over the country's marine space.
There is no combined state in the world where a particular country, state, borough or county have full control over its entire marine space because of security issues. Could the THA control drug trafficking in Tobago without the assistance of the country's security forces? The TOP is proposing that full dialogue must take place before any action is taken in Tobago's marine space. The TOP is purporting a share of the marine space to ensure border protection and economical benefits for Tobago. Tobagonians are aware that marine space is shared and managed by both the country, or state and the central government even in federal arrangements. This is evident in the United Kingdom and United States where the marine space is shared by the country or state and its central government. The PNM is just naive and is trying to deceive Tobagonians to cloud their minds with half-truths. The issue that is at hand is the present PNM led THA has six nautical miles of Tobago waters to manage. However, everyday fisher folks are crying that their fish pots are been cut by Centrica Oil Company during the conduct of seismic surveys in Tobago waters. Many fisher folks cannot go fishing depriving them of their livelihood and monies promised to the fisher folks are not paid on a timely basis. If the PNM led THA cannot even manage six nautical miles, would Tobagonians trust the PNM with two hundred nautical miles?
The PNM has always found it difficult to support constitutional reform for Tobago. In 1977 when the Honourable ANR Robinson proposed constitutional reform for Tobago it was denied by the PNM. In 1996 when another attempt was made with the influence of Mr ANR Robinson the result was a grudgingly supported watered-down version of the original proposal. In 2005 Mr Hochoy Charles brought a motion to the House, seeking greater autonomy for Tobago. However, the PNM led THA dragged its feet on this request. In 2007 Mr. Ashworth Jack brought a similar motion and again the PNM led THA was not proactive. Even when the then Prime Minister Patrick Manning proposed sweeping changes to the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, there was deafening silence on the status of Tobago within the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
However, on May 24th 2010 the PP government renewed its campaign promise to ensure Tobago is given the type of constitutional reform it has been seeking over the years. There is now a well prepared Green Paper that is out for public comment where Tobagonians can make their comments so the necessary legislation to effect these changes can be carried to Parliament. The PNM continues to be an enemy of Tobago but the will of the people can no longer be stifled. Now that Tobago is on its way to constitutional reform which will guarantee full internal self-government and self-determination for Tobagonians the PNM is trying to baffle and muffle Tobagonians with their unconvincing arguments.
This column would like to find out which Tobagonian beside the Chief Secretary and his cohorts were able to comment on the PNM Bills. Tobagonians please take the opportunity to make your comments on the Green Paper so we can have it debated in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago and have it enacted into the country's laws.
The TOP has kept its promise to bring the draft of the Green Paper to the people of Tobago. The TOP will be hosting three public consultations on the Green Paper in the next few weeks. The first consultation is carded for the Roxborough Composite School on Wednesday 21st March 2012 from 6.30 p.m. All civil minded Tobagonians are invited to put Tobago first and ensure that their views are registered.
THE TOBAGO ORGANISATION OF THE PEOPLE