THE ISSUE of self-government for Tobago has become a “political football” manipulated by parties for mileage, Chief Secretary for the Tobago House of Assemby Orville London has said. London made the statement yesterday during a consultation on Tobago autonomy held at The University of the West Indies St Augustine campus Teaching and Learning Centre.
On January 14, 1977 deceased former president and prime minister Arthur NR Robinson moved a motion in Parliament on the issue of internal self government for Tobago, London said.
“We are entering into a very critical phase in a four decade journey where those of us who have travelled that journey have seen that the objectives are not being achieved,” London said.
“And even if one looks at the last two years, one can understand why this process is necessary and why we have to do things right this time around,” he said. London said attempts were made previously to address the issue but all have failed.
“Since then there have been various attempts made to ensure that the kind of objectives which would have been postulated by Mr Robinson that those objectives were achieved. We have failed,” London said.
“We have made some progress but in reality we have failed and therefore there was a need for some serious introspection on behalf of all of us as to why it is the impression is given by all the decision makers that they want self government for Tobago, self government for Tobago has not been achieved,” he said.
London said during the Tobago House Assembly (THA) election held last year every political party used the issue of self government for the island as leverage to attract votes. “I don’t think it was any more evident than just before the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly election when every political party had as its major plank internal self-government for Tobago,” London said.
“One of the major challenges we had was the issue of what you might call political polarisation that the issue of self government for Tobago became a political issue, it became a political football, it became an issue for people to make political mileage and therefore even though some people wanted it to happen, that everyone wanted it to happen, nobody wanted it to happen to anybody else,” he said.
“This is something that has to transcend political self interest. We must work together to ensure that Tobago gets what Tobago has deserved and Tobago has demanded over the years,” London said.
London said he was approached by former THA chief secretary and political leader of the Platform of Truth, Hochoy Charles, for a collective approach to the issue of Tobago Self Government.
Ashworth Jack, the leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People, has since withdrawn from that collective approach.“Their withdrawal did not undermine the credibility of the process,” London said. “We have decided we are going to do it right we are going to do it thoroughly and we are going to do it in the manner that will give us the best chance of success,” he said.
Twelve consultations were held in Tobago this year. “We have an opportunity in Trinidad and Tobago at this time to settle this issue and to strengthen the union,” Charles said. “Our union, Trinidad and Tobago, is the weakest I know in the Caribbean today,” he said.
Charles said if a disaster struck Trinidad, Tobago would be left reeling.
“Do you know if a disaster and I say God forbid if a disaster strikes this island of Trinidad whether it is a hurricane, tsunami or earthquake and devastated it, God forbid, and did not touch the island of Tobago do you know that we are dead,” Charles said. Charles said all the stakeholders in Tobago must speak with one voice on the issue of self-government.
“We bank our money in Tobago. Do you know if there is a disaster in Trinidad that didn’t touch Tobago our money is gone,” Charles said.
“Do you know that the issue you had on the highway in Trinidad with the Sentinel vehicle do you know that it was Tobago money that leaves Tobago, comes down Trinidad and was coming back. This is a serious matter; it is not a jokey matter,” he said.