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London urges PM to delay debate

By Tobago Bureau

"Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should rethink debating the Constitutional (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2012 in Parliament on January 16 as it's only days leading up to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections on January 21."

So said THA Chief Secretary and political leader of the People's National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council Orville London during yesterday's weekly THA media conference.

London said the atmosphere running up to election day becomes "very volatile, very polarised, and it is definitely not the environment one expects to have the kind of rational, considered deliberate approach that is necessary for such an important issue".

"I am also concerned with a matter that has to do with the THA as an institution, that the THA was not consulted in the process. I find it particularly ironical; here, you have a situation where you are telling the public of Tobago, and Trinidad and Tobago, that you are so committed to enhancing the authority of this institution called the THA, and by the very process, you are undermining the institution."

London said it is untenable the THA was not given the opportunity by the Prime Minister to give their views on the Constitutional Amendment bills. He said the process under which the People's Partnership Government held consultations in Tobago was a "sham".

"Less than 100 people would have been involved in the process in Tobago; nobody really took it seriously, and that is against 6,000-odd signatures that would have gone to the Prime Minister, indicating the wishes of the people of Tobago."

London said the present process by the Government also occurred in 1996 when the Constitutional Amendment Bill was rushed through the Parliament.

"I still believe that we have an opportunity to rethink the process, and I am calling on the Prime Minister that if there is any shred of consideration for the process and the people of Tobago, that she should not take this bill to the Parliament at this time and not make it into a political football, but let us treat the whole process with the seriousness and dignity that it deserves and ensure that we have those discussions taking place at a time when all of us can sit down in an atmosphere that will allow for compromise, that will allow for consideration of all sides and that will allow for the kind of discussion and decision-making process that will give us the best chance of success."

London said the integrity of the Prime Minister and the integrity of the PP Government is at stake, and how they treat with this issue will send a powerful signal to Tobagonians about what they think of them and what they think about this very important process.

The Chief Secretary reiterated the Assembly's spending over the last 12 years, as of the end of fiscal 2012, was $16.39 billion, and "if you add to that what would have been received in the first quarter of fiscal 2013, that would have brought the figure to a little less than $17 billion".

"Up to the end of fiscal 2012, $13.54 billion was recurrent and $2.85 billion was, in fact, development. In other words, the THA would have received an average of $240 million per year for development," London said.

He said the Government has spent $160 billion in two years, and that does not include money borrowed and the bonds raised, so that the total amount of money available to this Government over three years could be close to $200 billion.

"They come to Tobago to criticise us, but we can say what we did with our $17 billion," said London.

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