Church representatives in Tobago have embraced the process for the democratisation of the Tobago House of Assembly following the January 21 Assembly election. They have also embraced the invitation from the Executive Council to be more involved in the governance of the island.
The 24 speakers among the 80 representatives present at a meeting on Tuesday night made lively contributions and commended Chief Secretary Orville London for his initiative in meeting them to allay fears by some that the island may have a dictatorship as a result of the clean sweep by one party in the election.
London who chaired the three-hour meeting dispelled those fears and spoke at length about the steps being taken by the Assembly to involve the Tobago population in the democratisation process. The meeting was the third held with interest groups to discuss the process. Meetings have already been held with the business community as well as youth groups and further meetings are being planned with representatives of the trade union movement and village councils among others.
The Chief Secretary said other initiatives being undertaken in the democratisation process included the creation of a public interest desk to which the public can telephone in or e-mail their concerns, a public day on Tuesdays and monthly meetings in electoral districts to involve communities in the process. London also met with economist Dr Vance James and continues to meet with former chief secretary Hochoy Charles.
London described Tuesday night's meeting as one of the most important session in the process which was about strengthening the democracy. "We have been presented with an opportunity and we must be able to come up with a process to involve the people. Tobagonians are not ready and if we are not ready we will be vulnerable and the church can prepare them better than we can," he added.
He said there were lessons to be taught were by the people of the church. "My problem is not economics, it is about people and regardless of who is in power in Tobago the problem is to be prepared. You have to prepare Tobagonians to be able to manage and the church has got to see itself as managing the process," he added.
London said the THA was willing to share its power but the sting in the tail was accepting responsibility. He said one of the things he wanted to leave at the end of his present four-year term was a prepared people because he didn't know what will come after Orville London.
He said a public interest grouping would be formed representing the various interests in the island since "what we are hoping to do is to find answers to the process". He said this group will be an independent body and will interact regularly with the Assembly.
Some of the issues raised by the church leaders were internal self government for the island in the shortest possible time, the role the church can play in changing the work ethics of Tobagonians, shortage of skilled people, assistance in running the health service, literacy programme, the environment and the involvement of Assemblymen in the activities of the church in their respective constituencies.