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Orville London reflects on ten years at THA
Q: Constitutional reform and full autonomy for Tobago are your party’s objectives. What is the process adopted by your administration in achieving this?
A: This administration has adopted a highly consultative and democratic process which has afforded every community, organisation and individual in Tobago an opportunity to be involved in the process. A Committee was set up under former Permanent Secretary, Dr John Prince and including individuals of the calibre of former Senator Dr Eastlyn Mc Kenzie, Dr Rita Pemberton of the University of the West Indies; former hotel manager, Mr Carlos Dillon. This Committee has consulted with communities and individuals, including former Presidents, Arthur N R Robinson and the late Sir Ellis Clarke. It has also conducted a session at Mt Irvine with representatives of political parties on the island and studied all the relevant reports emanating from discussions on the relationships between Tobago and Trinidad.
The Committee would have made a submission to Senior Counsel, Russell Martineau who has completed the Draft Amendments to the Tobago House of Assembly Act and the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. These were presented to the public and the press on Tuesday, January 27, 2011, and Dr Prince has made the commitment that a copy will be made available to every household in Tobago, in the shortest possible time. The Committee will then hold three meetings at which comments of the public could be aired. Written submissions will also be accepted and after all the submissions have been reviewed, the Committee will make a submission to Senior Counsel, Martineau who will prepare a final draft bill which will be debated in the Tobago House of Assembly. The Bill will then be transmitted to the Cabinet and then to Parliament for debate.
Don’t you find it is taking too long to be achieved, and how would you go about speeding up the process?
No, I do not think it is taking too long. We must recognise that this process could determine the relationship between Tobago and Trinidad for generations and therefore, our prime responsibility is to ensure that there is consensus among Tobagonians and that the final arrangement will treat with all the concerns that have plagued the people of Tobago over the years.
We must recall that the process was “fast tracked” in 1996 and we have been disadvantaged by many of the shortcomings of that Act. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
It seems as if the Central Government is bent on hijacking the process. What can your administration do to abort this?
I am aware of the stated intention of the Central Government to have the Attorney General prepare a Bill which will be taken to Cabinet for discussion. However, it is difficult for me, as a Tobagonian, to see Tobagonians accepting a situation where a document coming from the Attorney General is given any credence over a document which emanated from Tobago, represents the views of Tobagonians and is crafted to treat with the concerns of Tobagonians. I am certain that if the Central Government insults Tobagonians by attempting to hijack the process, their effort will be treated with the contempt it deserves.
During the past two months you have been on a delivery thrust of projects undertaken by your administration. How many projects were there and at what cost?
Over the past decade, this administration has been delivering consistently to the people of Tobago. However, because we have not been very aggressive in our public relations, much of the delivery has not been appreciated. Therefore, what we have done is to highlight what has been delivered in recent months to emphasise the extent and quality of our deliverables. Since October 2010, this administration has delivered the Buccoo Integrated Facility, the Mt Grace Pavilion, the Buccoo Community Centre, the Pembroke Heritage Park, Housing Settlements at Blenheim, Plymouth and Castara; the Lambeau Recreation Facility, the Patience Hill Outreach Centre and the Delaford Fishing Facility and Hard Court, among others.
How were they financed?
These projects were completed at a cost of close to $300 million, which would have been made available from the Assembly’s unexpended balances.
What are some of the new projects to be undertaken by your administration in the coming months?
Some of the projects to be undertaken or delivered in the coming months include the Black Rock Pan Theatre, the Hospital Laundry, the Scarborough and Charlotteville Health Centres the Black Rock Recreation Ground, the Belle Garden Hard Court, the Mt Irvine Fishing Facility, the Bloody Bay Recreation Ground, the refurbished Glen Road Community Centre, the Patience Hill Hard Court, Mary’s Hill/Whim Recreational Ground and, of course, the Scarborough Hospital, the Scarborough Cultural Complex and the Financial Complex.
What is the relationship between your administration and the Central Government and specifically the Minister of Tobago Development?
I cannot give a “Yes” or “No” to that question. The relationship varies. There are ministers and ministries like the Division of Tourism with which the Assembly has an excellent relationship. Many of the other ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other decision makers have been observing the established rules of engagement but I am aware that there are others who seem intent on undermining the autonomy and integrity of the Assembly. I hope that when they recognise that the strategies are likely to be counter productive, that they will desist and we can get on with the business of collaborating in the development of the island and the country.
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