President George Maxwell Richards yesterday called for a better understanding on what the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) represents to Tobagonians after the recent THA election.
With the People’s National Movement claiming all 12 seats under the THA, Richards declared the seat of the Minority Leader vacant.
“We ought then to have greater sensitivity in respect of Tobago affairs. It is our solemn duty as citizens of this twin island state to know and to understand the history of this union in order to develop together with peace and equity. It is imperative that we all understand what Tobago brings to the union that is different from what we know of Trinidad,” Richards said at the inauguration of the new THA at the Assembly Chamber of the THA in Tobago yesterday.
Orville London was sworn in as THA Chief Secretary for a fourth term.
Richards also called on Tobagonians to embrace their intrinsic culture and honour their own history.
“The people of Tobago must be careful to preserve those characteristics which define them as a people and must brook no substitutes for them,” he said to rousing applause.
While the election results have been the centre of discourse since it was announced on Monday night, Richards called for Tobagonians to embrace the daunting task ahead and move past campaigning, but not forget the major campaign issues.
“Much has been said since the results have been announced and opinions abound but this one is certain, the four years ahead, in the present circumstance of the election results, offer the opportunity to demonstrate in a most significant way, democracy beyond the electoral process. In other words democracy in substance, not in form,” he said.
He said expertise and professionals have left Tobago for Trinidad which has impacted positively on Trinidad’s success and did not do much for Tobago but promised that Tobago affairs would not be forgotten.
“Lest we forget the brain drain from Tobago to Trinidad over several years has made significant impact on the development of the latter and the spotlight now shines brightly on Tobago affairs, here and in Port of Spain. There will be no winners unless the campaign of the recent weeks is set aside and Tobagonians settle down to work together among themselves and all stakeholders for the good of Tobago and by extension the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. I encourage all Tobagonians to steer the course,” he said.
“Tobagonians have been handed the responsibility of taking a keener interest in how governance proceeds and it is the duty of the leadership to manage well its authority, understanding parameters and keeping in focus the best results for Tobago within the state of Trinidad and Tobago. The intelligence of the electorate did not come to an end at midnight on Monday 21st January 2013,” he said.
Richards thanked all the politicians who participated in the elections, saying they showed “courage”. He said the way the THA elections were conducted was evidence that democracy was alive in the twin islands.
“The recent Tobago House of Assembly elections have demonstrated that democracy is serving this country well or at least in the electoral process and the people of Tobago must be congratulated on the orderly conduct of this process,” he said.
“ I offer congratulations to all those who have been chosen by the people to lead Tobago into the future. This is a historic moment and it is always important that we learn the lessons of history,” he said, adding that while the task was daunting, it was not impossible.
“I have noted the energy and the creativity that exists particularly among the younger people for whom space must continue to be made. They must bear in mind that without the guidance of experienced elders perspective, it can be damaged to the detriment of the good work that can be otherwise be accomplished in collaborative efforts. A bright and productive future lies before you. Carpe diem,” he said.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar attended the inauguration and greeted newly-installed London with a handshake before the ceremony.
PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley and London both entered the ceremony to loud applause.
Though invited, Tobago Organisation for the People (TOP) head and former minority leader Ashworth Jack did not attend the ceremony. Jack lost his 16-year-long control of the Mason Hall/Providence/ Moriah seat to the PNM’s Sheldon Cunningham.