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Tobago Bill to amend Constitution via the back door

Published: 
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Were the people domiciled in Trinidad to continue in their laid-back complacent mode it could be a case of the unilateral, Tobago–centred and driven large scale amendment of the 1976 Republican Constitution using the back door of the Tobago Self-Government Bill that is now before a JSC for its evaluation, scrutiny and report to Parliament.

Having regard to the radical provisions in that Bill that attempts to rewrite The Preamble as well as important sections of the Constitution I believe that this Bill should have been subjected to further scrutiny by the people of Trinidad prior to introduction into the House because Tobago’s self-governance is Trinidad and Tobago’s business and not exclusively and singularly that of the people of Tobago as the Prime Minister seems to believe.

It seems to me that if Prime Minister Rowley were to have his way, his day and his sway he would subordinate the collective interests of the people of Trinidad to give precedence and priority to the insular aspirations of Tobago in complete violation of the unitary statehood principle. After all, Manning’s as well as PNM’s dictat was what Tobago wants Tobago gets.

This Bill is very poorly drafted with a litany of major errors. It makes radical incursions to rewrite the Constitution. Consequential plans are afoot to redefine the maritime jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago, introduce the highly controversial concept of self-determination in the Preamble, endow Tobago with a nonsensical equality of status with Trinidad in Section 1, whatever that means, to an archipelagic state of 23 islands and to repeal the entire Chapter 11 A of the Constitution to provide for an exorbitantly priced and a vertical densely packed Self-Government of Tobago institutional infrastructure.

After a series of previous aborted and failed attempts to achieve Constitutional Reform in Trinidad and Tobago, the Tobago Self Government Bill is about to circumvent that consultative process using the back door to effect radical changes to the Constitution unless the Opposition sees the light and insists on referring the Bill for widespread public discussions among the people of Trinidad after the work of the JSC is completed in July.

STEPHEN KANGAL,
Caroni

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