THE Government is seeking to purchase four new interceptor vessels at a cost of $21 million from local manufacturers to patrol the waters around Tobago in an effort to stem the flow of drugs and illegal activities there.
In addition, 12 Coast Guard interceptor vessels, which are currently in a state of disrepair, are to be refurbished to be used in the fight against crime around the country’s coastal waters, including Tobago.
This was disclosed following yesterday’s meeting between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London at the Prime Minister’s Office at the International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
The two met for the second time this year as part of their commitment to holding quarterly “non-crisis” meeting to discuss a number of issues affecting Tobago.
Both described the one-hour-long meeting as “positive, cordial, and encouraging”.
According to Persad-Bissessar, “In the areas of national security and fight against crime, Mr London expressed concerns about manning of coastal waters, inlets and bays in Tobago and the surveillance and protection of the waters surrounding Tobago.
“In this regard, I told him that CCTV cameras on the land have been restored across Tobago, and the radar is fully operational, which will assist both on land and on the coast.
“I also advised that Cabinet has approved for refurbishment works to be undertaken on 12 interceptors to man waters and consideration is being given to purchase four new interceptors and this is now engaging the attention of the National Security Council. We are also in discussions with regard to other vessels,” she added.
Also high on the agenda is the issue of internal self-government for Tobago, but both leaders although committed to realising this, emerged from the meeting still unsure of “the how” to achieve this process.
Persad-Bissessar said her government will consider a proposal by the Chief Secretary as to a possible way forward, in which he asked for the principles of the Dispute Resolution Commission approach as stipulated by the THA Act be used to arrive at some kind of resolution to the issue.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to flesh out the document, which I will present to her early next week with the hope that it will get a positive reaction,” London said. It is a process which involves both the THA and central government putting their positions on the table to be discussed and an agreement reached.
“Our concern is that the issue must not reach the Parliament in an adversarial environment where somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. We must be committed that, at the end of the exercise, the objective is achieved,” London said.
While both could give no timeframe for this process to be completed, London said he strongly defended Tobago’s position that the issue not become subsumed in the constitutional reform exercise.
“I have expressed to the Prime Minister how strongly Tobago feels about internal self-government not be part of constitutional reform,” he added.