HE leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) is delaying the continuation of talks on internal self-government.
Ashworth Jack asked for the original meeting to be postponed until this Thursday, but cancelled the meeting, citing personal reasons. This places the parties past their one month deadline for talks to continue.
Jack was expected to indicate by the end of the week, his availability for a new date. The Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Chief Secretary, Orville London, the leader of the Platform of Truth, Hochoy Charles and the Chairman of the People’s National Movement, Neil Wilson, who has been appointed to lead that party in the talks, all say they will make themselves available for any date that was chosen.
The first meeting between leaders on internal self-government, which will see a review of the THA Act, took place early in January.
Speaking about the issue of internal self-government, London says, “What you want is a situation where the will of the people is recognised and therefore all political entities and decision-makers know that this is what the majority of Tobagonians want.”
He indicated that such an approach might lead to “a system where we will be able to know that this is what the rest of the country wants for Tobago, and in those circumstances one understands the implications of not going along with the wishes of the people.”
He was also asked for his definition of ‘internal self-government’, a term that has been used in relation to the talks. The Chief Secretary responded that, “We sometimes get bogged down with labels, and once we get bogged down with labels, there is a lot of discussion as to what people think the labels mean rather than what the people want. So the process in which we are engaged is one in which we determine the demands of the people and those demands will in fact inform the legislation and you can label it after.”
London continued, “That is why I am in agreement that we should not label it federalism or we should not give it a label. Let us agree on the demands first and then at the end of that exercise, then determine into what category it falls, if it falls into any natural category.”
As for what happens after the political leaders make a decision and approach the Central Government and Parliament for support, and who will be responsible for laying the motion in Parliament, London says, “The ideal situation should be one where there is almost consensus before and it does not matter who takes it to Parliament. We obviously would have a better chance of success if it is taken to Parliament by the government. There is no reason why, for instance, it cannot be tabled in Parliament by a representative of the people of Tobago. Because if one remembers the 1976 bill was tabled by Mr Robinson who was at that point in time was a member of the opposition and very much in the minority.”
He added that, “So, in an ideal world what you would prefer to have is something that is taken to the Parliament by the Central Government in an environment where it is known even beforehand that it would be approved, and that to me is the ideal situation.