Friday, February 23, 2018

Fear,not race

PM on why Tobago voted for PNM:


IN CHARGE AGAIN: Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London is sworn in for the fourth time by President George Maxwell Richards during the THA inauguration ceremony in Tobago yesterday.

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IN CHARGE AGAIN: Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London is sworn in for the fourth time by President George Maxwell Richards during the THA inauguration ceremony in Tobago yesterday.

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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the victory by the People's National Movement (PNM)-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) had nothing to do with race but fear.

Speaking with reporters following the Ninth inauguration ceremony of the new THA in Scarborough yesterday, she stressed that the people of Tobago must be respected in light of the outcome of the election.

She also noted while the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) led by Ashworth Jack ran its campaign on the issue of constitutional reform, the PNM ran its campaign on fear and standing in defence of Tobago.

Persad-Bissessar said however there must be no attempt to belittle the democratic decision and right of the people of Tobago following the outcome of Monday's THA election in which the PNM won all 12 seats and the TOP none.

The PNM had previously held eight seats and the TOP four.

"I believe that they chose that team (PNM) because they felt that team was best able to run the THA and to develop Tobago," Persad- Bissessar said.

The Prime Minister's comments come in sharp contrast to that of UNC chairman Jack Warner, who on Wednesday said the people of Tobago voted on the basis of "tribal instincts" and the fear that a "Calcutta" ship was coming.

Warner, Minister of National Security, said: "The results of the THA election reflect how palpable the notion of fear among the African population can be.

With very little to show from a party they have supported; a party that has neglected and overlooked them, Tobagonians still chose to remain with their political abusers."

Newly sworn-in THA Chief Secretary Orville London has described Warner's statement as irresponsible, reckless, insulting and degrading to Tobagonians.

The Prime Minister said it is not her view that she took over the TOP's campaign, propelling the party to lose the election.

Political analysts and other commentators have expressed the view that the presence of the Prime Minister at various TOP political meetings on the island did not allow the TOP to conduct its political campaign in its own style and this may have contributed to its loss.

"I was invited by our partner Mr Ashworth Jack, and based on that I came here on his invitation," Persad-Bissessar said.

She also described the address made by President George Maxwell Richards during yesterday's Ninth inauguration ceremony as inspiring to start the healing process after the election.

"There will be many hurts and disappointments, but for Tobago to grow it is important that healing takes place. His Excellency set that tone in his comments," she said.

Noting that she felt welcomed to Tobago, as she did before and during the election, Persad- Bissessar said when she receives London's invitation to meet with her, she will meet with him. London told reporters he intended to write the Prime Minister requesting a meeting.

She said in light of there being no opposition in the Assembly, it would now be up to the people of Tobago and Trinidad to look at the proper accounting practices of THA.

"I trust that Mr London would have put his shoulder to the wheel, to try to ensure there is accountability and transparency in the spending of taxpayers dollars," she said.

Letter dated January 24 from THA Chief Secretary Orville London to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:

Dear Honourable Prime Minister,

As you aware, the recently concluded Tobago House of Assembly elections have produced a result that does not include the opportunity for a minority presence in the House of Assembly

It is the considered opinion of the people of Tobago that appropriate arrangements be made to allow for the representation of views alternative to those of the winning party be expressed in the Assembly legislature.

In light of the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill No. 1/2013 before Parliament, that proposes constitutional change for the relationship between islands of Trinidad and Tobago and for the operations of the Tobago House of Assembly, I am proposing a legislative change to immediately address this situation.

The proposals submitted by the Tobago House of Assembly to your Government in relation to the amendments to the Tobago House of Assembly Act, proposed that the President appoint, in his own discretion, two councillors as members of the Assembly. This proposal will address the current situation as an interim relief pending the passage of full legislative amendments to the relevant laws.

Given the urgency created by the results of the election, for alternative voices in the Assembly legislature, I recommend that the Government seek to have the Parliament approve a change to the current legislation to allow for this provision to be implemented.

I am available for further consultation, in accordance with Section 31, of the Tobago House of Assembly Act 1996.

Yours in Progress.

Copy Dr Keith Rowley, Leader of the Opposition.