Tobago stakeholders welcome move to make proclaim THA Act


In this January 28, 2021 file photo members of the media await the assemblymen to exit the Tobago House of Assembly building in Scarborough. A six-six deadlock in the election led Government to pass legislation to increase the seats to 15, setting the stage for a new election by 2022. –

Tobago stakeholders have expressed mixed views about the Cabinet’s decision to proclaim the THA Amendment Act, which paves the way for a fresh THA election with 15 electoral districts to break the six-six deadlock in the assembly.

The Prime Minister made the announcement on Thursday at the post-Cabinet news conference in Tobago, saying the Act, which was assented to by President Paula Mae-Weekes on May 16, will be proclaimed on Monday.

Dr Rowley said once the act is proclaimed, within 90 days, the Elections and Boundaries Commission must produce a report and submit it to the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government for the purpose of creating the 15 electoral districts.

He also outlined other measures, which would set the stage for a new THA election, hopefully before 2022.

Commenting on the announcement, Tobago CivilNET member and recording artiste Xavier Edwardz said while he welcomes the proclamation in the context of resolving the THA deadlock, it may not heal the rifts that have developed among segments of the population.

“I think it was important that decisions be made and steps be taken to bring about a resolution to this impasse, this challenge.

“The resolution, as chosen and directed by the Prime Minister through the Cabinet, I think, is, on the lower end of best ways to have resolved this issue from a holistic point of view,” Edwardz told Sunday Newsday.

He added: “From a political point of view, it bears much value but from a societal point of view and bringing about healing in politically divided spaces and fostering a sense of unity amongst peoples, I disagree.”

Edwardz said the deadlock provided a great opportunity to bring about healing through collaboration between the two parties “to disintegrate the partisanship in our space after elections.”

He said apart from Tobago CivilNET, other NGOs and interest groups have also supported this view.

Edwardz believes the position was also heavily supported by the framers of the THA Act 40 of 1996.

He referred to the contributions of former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and former Tobago-born independent senator Dr Eastlyn Mc Kenzie in the Parliament.

“The discussions really centred around him (Maharaj) saying that the intention of the framers of the Act was that if there ever was a draw in Tobago, that they will work together and resolve the issue.”

Edwardz believes the manner in which the assembly is laid out also gives credence to this view.

“It is not shaped in an opposition-styled parallel pattern but as a horse-shoe to support the idea of unity and sharing power.”

Edwardz said while he understands a decision had to be made to have the THA properly constituted, the prime minister’s “direction and purpose” should have been geared towards “helping to heal the political divide in our space.”

He also believes having an election while still in the throes of a pandemic could be risky.

Vice-president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Carol-Ann Birchwood-James said while it may not be the best solution, the proclamation of the THA Amendment Act is the only logical move to end the deadlock at this time.

“We have a six-six deadlock. We have no real legitimate administration in Tobago and, I won’t say it is the best move, but it is the only move available to us at this time because we need to sort out this deadlock. We need to vote for the money and have accountability for money that is being spent,” she said.

“We have no choice. Let us go and vote in a legitimate government in Tobago with a majority.”

President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Diane Hadad said the organisation welcomes the proclamation of the act.

“That could not have been better news because we need to get out of where we are and we need to have a clear mandate as to where we are going and who we are going there with,” she said.

“It is about time that this six-six tie comes to some sort of end and that we understand where we are heading.”

The People’s National Movement and the Progressive Democratic Patriots each won six seats in the January 25 THA election.

It was the first time in the THA’s 40-year history that the result of an election ended in deadlock.

Since the election, both parties have not been able to come up with a solution to resolve the impasse.

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