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THA Chief surprised, disappointed in PM
Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Orville London says he is both surprised and disappointed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s claim that he was trying to bully the People’s Partnership Government into approving THA bills for internal self government for the island.
“That is absolutely untrue,” London said. He said he had documentary evidence to show that he told the PM the THA could not take the matter any further and was requesting her collaboration. Persad-Bissessar made the “bullying” claim during her address to a rally in Scarborough on Saturday.
London said the PM’s comments about demanding automatic passage of the bills in the Parliament was “preposterous.” “It is disappointing really that a prime minister can make statements which are untrue,” he said. London said his request for a meeting with Persad-Bissessar was based on a requirement in the Tobago House of Assembly Act, which stipulates that the PM and the Chief Secretary meet from time to time to ensure there was a good relationship between the two islands.
He said it was in that context that he requested the meeting with Persad-Bissessar to discuss proposals for internal self government for Tobago. “It is not something that I am begging for. It is something I am requesting on behalf of the people of Tobago as a responsible Chief Secretary speaking, hopefully, to a responsible Prime Minister,” London said.
London said the THA bills were in the Prime Minister’s possession and she cannot say that they were not representative of the views of the people of Tobago. He said the process to draft the legislation “was never a THA process. It was facilitated by the THA so that we could garner the views of Tobagonians. “So I must express my profound disappointment at the stance taken by the Prime Minister,” London said.
The THA chief said there was need for collaboration on the issue of constitutional reform and internal self governance for Tobago. “The law does not mandate the Prime Minister to pass it (THA legislation) to the Attorney General. There must be things that the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary should speak about,” he said.
Persad-Bissessar said the bills were sent to the AG in his capacity as legal adviser to the Government. London also commented on a claim by Persad-Bissessar that she speaks with Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) political leader Ashworth Jack, who is also the Minority Leader in the THA, on a daily basis with a view to developing the island.
London said he had no problem with Persad-Bissessar speaking with Jack on a daily basis. “But the central Government must speak with the Tobago House of Assembly through the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary. The central Government cannot and should not speak to the Tobago House of Assembly through the Minority Leader.”
Jack’s TOP is one of the five parties in the PP coalition government. He said such moves between Persad-Bissessar and Jack were intended to sideline the Chief Secretary. “I recommend very strongly, very strongly to the Minority Leader that he should not facilitate or encourage any action, which can undermine the authority and whatever limited autonomy the Assembly now has.”
London said when the Minority Leader “does that as Ashworth Jack, he has to understand that it is not about Ashworth, it is about the institution called the Assembly.”
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