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Tobago Bill won't pass before elections

Jamal on 'marathon' debate:

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Debate on the legislation to make way for Tobago self-governance will not be completed in Parliament before the January 21 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.

The Constitutional (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2012 will be tabled in Parliament on Monday.

Debate will begin in the House of Representatives on January 16, and it is anticipated there will be a marathon session to pass the Bill in the Lower House before the elections.

In order for a Bill to become law, it must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then sent to the President for proclamation.

Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed said yesterday at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair that it may not be possible for the Senate to debate and pass the Tobago Bill before January 21 as it has other matters before it to be discussed.

He noted the Bill requires a special majority and has to go through the process.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at the Tobago Organisation of the People's (TOP) presentation of candidates last weekend, had announced the dates for the tabling and debate of the Bill.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had described this move as vulgar and insulting and accused the Prime Minister of campaigning for the TOP in Parliament.

Questioned on this, Mohammed said the Bill was promised to the people of Tobago.

He said TOP leader Ashworth Jack joined the People's Partnership in 2010 with this objective in mind.

"So this is something that has been promised; it has come now because now is the time for it. Whatever else people want to say, whatever interpretation they want to put, however you want to stem it, whether we are close to Tobago House of Assembly election time and, now, we are putting this in Parliament, it is what the people deserve, it was promised to the people of Tobago by Mr Jack, and we are delivering now at this time for and on behalf of the people of Tobago."

Mohammed, in response to questions, claimed that THA Chief Secretary Orville London was consulted on the Bill, contrary to his claims refuting this.

"We have documents today in the Cabinet where the committee, headed by Prof Hamid Ghany, they received recommendations and a report from the Tobago House of Assembly, and Dr Ghany mentioned in the report that he considered all of these recommendations from the THA in coming up with his final report, which was represented to the Cabinet and from which the Bill was produced,'' he said.

Questioned further, he responded that the recommendations "came from Mr Orville London and the Tobago House of Assembly, and Mr Hamid Ghany and members of his committee did consider the recommendations, and all of it is found in the report and the subsequent Bill that will be laid in Parliament on Monday".

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