TOP releases manifesto in Tobago today
By SEAN DOUGLAS Sunday, January 13 2013
click on pic to zoom in
The scenic view from a hill in Delaford, in the polling district of Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford....
THE Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) is today releasing, in Tobago, its manifesto for the January 21 election of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
Tobagonians can collect their copy of the manifesto which will be inserted in and distributed with their copy of the Sunday Newsday.
Today, we present highlights of the manifesto:
The TOP says the Constitutional (Amendment)( Tobago) Bill 2013, recently laid in Parliament by the Government, is a turning point for Tobago in that it will let the THA work in the interest of all Tobagonians.
TOP laments the asymmetrical development of Tobago relative to Trinidad, and that Tobagonians have been spectators, not participants in their own development. The party laments that tourism is in decline, and seems set for further decline due to reduced airlift and other factors.
“The discovery of oil and gas off Tobago waters creates greater difficulty in balancing the clean, green, serene logo with the imperatives of development,” TOP says.
The party bemoans the fact that the island’s children are under-performing at the level of primary school, as well as CXC and CAPE Exams and laments a Tobago “whose problems of 20 years ago still exist with no real solutions in sight — health care, infrastructure, food insecurity, access to essential services, and housing”.
“Tobago needs a new vision that solves the major challenges of Tobagonians, a way forward that re-engages Tobagonians and uses their inherent pride, thrift, creativity and passion for hard work to make this place a real home for us all,” the party declares.
TOP champions the idea of self-determination for Tobagonians.
The manifesto says this would be aided by the new bill, which would constitutionally empower the THA in various ways.
“The Legislature of the Assembly would be empowered to pass bills to be assented to by the President...,” it said. The THA could set policy for the social, economic and cultural development of Tobago. It would also have a legally-mandated share of the Parliament’s appropriations, (that is, chiefly TT’s National Budget).
The TOP said the bill would let Tobagonians take responsibility for their own destiny, a legitimate aspiration for more than 100 years.
A TOP-run THA would re-define the roles of each division of the THA, and promote decentralisation of government functions.
The TOP proposes dividing Tobago into two Regional Development Authorities - North-East and South-West, each in turn divided into districts.
“The communities that form the local administrative districts will select/elect representatives to serve on the Regional Development Authority with delegated responsibilities from the Tobago House of Assembly.”
FINANCE & ENERGY
Tobago’s tax-base is low and so the THA is mainly funded by the central Government at 4.03 percent of the National Budget, said the manifesto.
Further approaches should be explored, said the TOP. “Given that petroleum assets are deemed to be located in the waters off Tobago, one focus may be on a portion of the royalty earnings as distinct from corporation taxes,” it says.
The party wants Tobagonians to become players in the energy sector, including a planned liquified natural gas (LNG) plant at Cove. The TOP vows to set up a Tobago Focus Group to define a Renewable Energy Policy.
Promoting diversification, the manifesto says, “A TOP Administration will create new streams of income from sports tourism, health and wellness tourism, agriculture, culture and art.”
The TOP vows to promote “authentic teaching and learning, civic duty, health and family life education and community service”. The party promises to build a school for the hearing-impaired, plus two new schools -Scarborough Roman Catholic and Scarborough Secondary, and upgrade existing schools including putting air-conditioning in all school auditoriums. TOP promises to regularise the tenure of all teachers on contract and boost school middle management.
“The TOP will embark on curriculum reform to address the needs of the tourism sector and the new 21st century development skills and competencies,” the manifesto says.”
The TOP advocates a Community-oriented Tourism Policing Model. It plans to set up a Department of Public safety and Community Security in the THA. Under the Supplemental Police Act, a TOP-run THA would establish a Tobago House of Assembly Police Service.
“Tourism, for the TOP, is the marketing and sale of an experience, of a people, their environment, their heritage and culture to the rest of the world,” says the manifesto.
The party backs three types of tourism in Tobago — “Sun, Sea and Sand tourism”, “Community based projects” (such as involving culture and natural resources), and Health and Wellness tourism”. TOP proposed that two new marinas in Tobago East and West would boost both local fishermen and the yachting industry.
“A TOP administration will reserve, protect and promote what already exists,” says the manifesto. “TOP will promote that sense of history and appreciation of our past...A TOP administration will spearhead the collection and acquisition of Tobago-related historical and archaeological materials.”
The party promises to create a Heroes’ Cemetery.
Lamenting that many large estates are under-producing, the TOP promises to ensure all agricultural lands and food producers reach their full potential, such as by new access roads and other infrastructure. “A TOP administration will develop a Tobago Food Security Plan...” says the manifesto.
To boost the supply of food-crops, especially “staples, vegetables, legumes and fruits”, TOP promises to provide cold storage, freeze blasting, vacuum packing and other processing facilities at strategic locations. The party vows to restore the island’s cocoa industry and the coconut sector.
Sheep, goat and rabbit farming also offered great potential, says the TOP.
A TOP-run THA would do more to protect forests, which international trends suggest could provide a new tourism product in the form of eco-tourism.
The TOP is very concerned about non communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases, and supported community-based preventative measures rather than costly reactive cures. They want to build a hospital in East Tobago.
SPORT & YOUTH
The TOP wants more people participating in sport, to help stay healthy. Their thrust would include school-children, the disabled and high-level athletes.
“A TOP administration will establish the Tobago Sport Academy...It will serve as a platform for the exploitation of the successes recorded by Dwight Yorke, Renny Quow and Kelly-Ann Baptiste.” The TOP also advocates a Tobago Music and Performing Arts School. In its section on “youth policy” the manifesto includes several measures to steer youngsters away from crime, such as activities in sport, hiking, scouts/brownies and voluntary activities in the community.
Within six months, a TOP administration will develop a Tobago Land Use Plan. A TOP-run THA would tackle the vexed issue of land title in Tobago. It would log all persons and lands with undocumented title, research each property by collating unofficial documents with documented evidence, collect communal testimony and witnesses, establish a process for assessing all evidence, and help to introduce new laws to let legal title be awarded to verifiable claimants.