THA election ‘a referendum’
By Andre Bagoo in Tobago Saturday, January 19 2013
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Youth politics: Children have fun at the TOP political meeting in Moriah, Tobago on Thursday night....
PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday night urged Tobagonians to consider Monday’s Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election as a referendum on the issue of internal self-governance, as she accused the Opposition PNM of contempt and “shameless, cowardly” conduct in refusing to even debate legislation proposing to give Tobago self-governance.
While the Constitution currently does not put forward a mechanism by which a referendum can be held, Persad-Bissessar said Tobagonians should make the election effectively one, in the wake of the PNM’s refusal to support the Tobago Bill 2013 which was debated in Parliament on Wednesday.
“On Monday, when you go to vote, I ask you to make this a referendum on internal self-government,” Persad-Bissessar told the crowd gathered at Broad Place, Moriah, Tobago. “If you want internal government and self government, vote TOP.”
On the Tobago Bill, she said, “This is the bill that would be the freedom paper for the people of Tobago.” She criticised the Opposition for not contributing in any way to fine-tuning, or improving the bill when it had a chance to do so during debate. She said the Opposition did not have any PNM MP speak on the bill after Rowley stated he was not in support of it.
“When he was done speaking, not a single PNM MP spoke,” she said. “Even if you did not like it, and you thought there were wrong things in it, why did you not stand up and speak up and say what you would do. I think the PNM and Mr Rowley showed the greatest contempt for the people of Tobago.”
She continued, “It was a most shameless, cowardly act to condemn the bill, but not put forward a single alternative. They did not support the fact that we were seeking to give the people of Tobago more powers.”
“If you want freedom, vote for the TOP. In your hand, you have the power. This finger is mightier than the sword. This finger is mightier than the gun. With this finger you can change the destiny of Tobago,” she declared.
TOP political leader, Ashworth Jack, echoed the Prime Minister’s referendum theme and said the new tagline of the TOP campaign would now be “a vote for a vote”. “Tell them when they go back in Parliament to support the Tobago Bill and then you will consider them,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the Opposition did not support moving the maritime line from six 4 miles to 11 miles, and Rowley was confusing the issue. She said maritime law did not allow a 200 mile line.
“I know he is a geologist and you study a lot of rocks,” she said. She said the 200 mile line would have absurd outcomes. “Would Tobago fall into Grenada waters, or into Toco?” she said. She suggested that the PNM was being hypocritical on Tobago’s place in the Republic because the PNM constitution was still backward-looking in relation to Tobago. She said the PNM political leader was elected one man one vote, but the PNM Tobago Council leader is elected via a delegate system.
“If you can discriminate within your own family of the PNM, what will you do to the rest of persons?”
Persad-Bissessar said notwithstanding efforts to re-brand him, Rowley still acts like a “raging bull”.
“I heard they were doing some kind of re-branding, but yesterday (Wed) the brand fell off and the true character came to the fore: angry, ranting and frothing at the mouth.
The Prime Minister and several of her Cabinet ministers who attended the meeting were mobbed by the TOP crowd at the Moriah rally, which is at the heart of Jack’s polling division.
Persad-Bissessar attended the meeting alongside: Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, Minister of Tobago Development Delmon Baker, Minister of Justice Christlyn Moore, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas, and Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin.
Roberts also echoed the Prime Minister in formulating the election as a virtual referendum choice.
“Vote TOP, vote Ashworth Jack, and change the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago forever,” Roberts said.