THERE is uncertainty as to whether the Tobago Bill 2012 will be passed through both Houses of Parliament ahead of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections on January 21. The bill is designed to provide internal self governance for Tobago.
Government Chief Whip in the House, Dr Roodal Moonilal, yesterday said the bill will be laid on January 7, the first sitting of the House of Representatives for 2013. Moonilal added that Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, will pilot the bill.
He explained the bill will not be debated in the House until January 16, because Government wanted to “give the Opposition enough time to study the bill.” Asked when the Senate will sit to debate and pass the bill, Moonilal initially indicated “it may be the next week.” When asked if this meant the bill would be debated by the Senate after January 21, Moonilal replied: “It may be before (January 21).” However he was unable to indicate when the Senate sitting might be held.
For the bill to pass before the THA elections, the Senate will need to sit sometime between January 17 and 20.
At the launch of the Tobago Organisation of the People’s THA election campaign at Tambrin Square, Scarborough, on December 30 last, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the bill would be laid in Parliament on January 7 and debated on January 16. She did not indicate at that time, whether the debate would take place in the House, or the Senate. The bill requires a two-thirds majority for passage in both Houses of Parliament (27 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate).
Government has the 27 votes it needs in the House to pass the bill since it has 29 elected MPs.
However, the Government has only 15 members in the Senate, and will need to get support from either the six Opposition senators, or the nine Independent senators to get the 21 votes needed to pass the bill.
When the House sits on January 7, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley will ask Moonilal, who is also Housing Minister, and Finance Minister Larry Howai to answer questions whether government ministers, or officials who have housing units at Federation Villas have received any housing allowance in the State offices that they hold.
The main item of business on the House’s agenda next Monday will be to debate a motion seeking exemption from Import Duties of Customs for certain items.
Reproduced from Newsday