Tobago moved one step closer to elections following an announcement by Chief Secretary Orville London yesterday that as of midnight last night the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) was dissolved, three months ahead of its full four-year term.
But Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack saw London's announcement as an indication that the Chief Secretary was "running scared".
"He is a scared man. We are not surprised," Jack told the Express, adding that the timing of the dissolution of the THA was questionable.
"I wonder if it had anything to do with the request from Finance Minister Larry Howai for information from the Chief Secretary about the BOLT project," he said.
Jack was referring to the controversy involving the arrangements surrounding the $143 million THA administrative complex to be built through a Build-Own, Lease-Transfer (BOLT) arrangement.
London said he expects the date for the election to be between December 25 and January 25 and he will return to the House after the January 2013 polls.
"Once I am selected by my party and once I contest, I think I have an excellent chance of returning."
In a statement earlier, the THA indicated that "London proposed the resolution under section 22 (1) of the THA Act to dissolve the House".
It further stated that under section 22(2), "the President, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary, shall fix the date of a primary election, which date shall not be earlier than the expiration of two months after the dissolution of the Assembly, nor later than the expiration of three months after that dissolution".
In moving the motion, London said he will recommend a date for the elections to President George Maxwell Richards and when that date is transmitted to the Prime Minister he hoped it will be accepted.
Tobago has been in an election mode for the past five months with THA Minority Leader Jack launching his campaign in June to lead the Assembly for the next four years.
Jack got the endorsement of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in June when she announced a number of goodies for the sister island, including the appointment of tourism attaches in foreign embassies to market Tobago.
Persad-Bissessar was in Tobago to celebrate the People's Partnership Government's second anniversary celebrations as well as to launch the TOP campaign.
She sought to put the island in an election mood as she warned the electorate not to vote blindly in the THA elections.
Since then, the People's National Movement-controlled THA has upped its own electioneering, with the party's political leader and Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley leading off several political meetings in Tobago.
The last Assembly was dissolved at the October sitting in 2008 and elections held on January 19, 2009. The majority PNM won eight of the 12 seats and the minority TOP the other four.
This time around, TOP leader Jack is hoping to unseat the PNM and take control of the THA for the People's Partnership.
Outside the Assembly Chamber in Scarborough yesterday, TOP supporters greeted Jack and called for the election date to be announced immediately.
Several of them carried placards calling for the date and for the THA to account for the BOLT arrangement.
—additional reporting by Elizabeth Williams