Rowley: PP trying to fool Tobagonians
Thursday, January 17 2013
OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday slammed the People’s Partnership (PP) Government for trying to fool the people of Tobago into believing that the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2013 will give them greater internal self-governance.
Responding to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, Rowley described the bill as a “a fish with feathers.”
He declared Government’s only intention through the bill was purely to put a campaign before the people of Tobago to help coalition partner, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) win next Monday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
Saying the PP’s intention to pass this bill mirrored an attempt to do something similar in 1996 by the then United National Congress (UNC) government “in the teeth of a THA election,” Rowley said the fact that Persad-Bissessar “backed backed” from her pronouncement last month of “a marathon debate” in the House yesterday and said the bill will instead be sent to a joint select committee, proves the bill is an election ploy to help the TOP.
“Everybody in Tobago and the whole country understood that to mean that this marathon session was going to end in a vote where we will fundamentally change the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
Noting such an amendment needs particular attention, Rowley said a close scrutiny of the bill shows that contrary to Persad-Bissessar’s statements, Tobago will be worse off than it is now, if the bill is passed in its current form. “If the egg is rotten, then the omelette is going to be bad,” Rowley scoffed.
He said Section 8 of the bill does not give the THA more autonomy but keeps it subservient to the Central Government because it does not repeal Section 75 of the Constitution as claimed by Persad-Bissessar.
That section speaks to the powers of Cabinet and Parliament. Rowley said while the bill creates a concurrent list of services which the THA and Central Government will have control over, “the existing laws give Tobago more power than this concurrent list.”
“The concurrent list is a Trojan horse to allow the Central Government to behave the way they are behaving now,” he declared. Rowley said even before Parliament debates this list, evidence of Government ignoring the THA can be seen in the construction of a water pipeline in Arnos Vale and efforts to acquire land in Tobago to build a university campus.On the latter, Rowley said that land is “being bought and owned by a friend of a friend of a friend.”
Displaying a map of marine acreages around Tobago, Rowley explained that all of these areas fell outside of the proposed 11 mile nautical radius in the bill and Tobago would not directly receive any energy revenues from them. He warned this had serious implications regarding the country’s maritime boundaries and the hydrocarbon reserves within these boundaries.
Noting Persad-Bissessar’s remarks about Tobago waiting 123 years for liberation, Rowley reminded her that the NAR government of Arthur NR Robinson and Basdeo Panday’s UNC government (in which she was a Cabinet minister) were in power during this period, Rowley quipped: “If there was this noose put around Tobago’s neck by the PNM, I am sure that she did not mean to say that during the period of 33 -3 when the government was led by Mr Robinson, that they forgot Tobago.”
Declaring that Government has a habit of trying “to fool people,” Rowley reminded MPs that it was National Security Minister Jack Warner who publicly said that Persad-Bissessar was “charming but dangerous.”