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Kamla: PNM against PNM
Trinidad PNM against Tobago PNM! That’s the contention of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who accused Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday of refusing to support recommendations in the Tobago self-government bill although they were made by Tobago PNM leader Orville London, who controls the Tobago House of Assembly.
“Is it that the Opposition Leader is saying he will not support the proposals that were put into the bill that were the recommendations of the Chief Secretary of Tobago, his own Chief Secretary? It doesn’t make sense,” Persad-Bissessar said in Parliament. The Prime Minister waded into the PNM while piloting the Tobago legislation, which seeks to provide internal self-government for Tobago.
The bill is an integral aspect of campaigning for Monday’s THA election. Persad-Bissessar swept into the Parliament yesterday alongside TOP leader Ashworth Jack, after visiting former President Arthur NR Robinson, whom she presented with a copy of the Tobago bill.
She and Jack were followed in by the entire Cabinet. She based her contribution on Robinson’s moves since 1977 to obtain internal self-government for Tobago, saying Tobagonians had waited over 123 years for it.
She told the Parliament: “I said to him, ‘Mr Robinson, I report to you that we are continuing on the road to self-realisation, of self-government, for your beloved Tobago.
‘We will honour our manifesto promise to Tobago. This bill is a quantum leap on the long meandering journey for Tobagonians’ liberation.’” Persad-Bissessar, who outlined the bill’s main clauses (see box below), dismissed claims by the THA that it had not been consulted on the bill.
Saying that was a red herring, the PM said the PNM-controlled THA submitted its recommendations on the bill on July 19, 2012 and had said those submissions represented the views of Tobagonians.
She said the THA also proposed certain matters be put under the legislative power of the THA and Government had accepted that and other suggestions. The PM said the THA further suggested proposals for budgeting and borrowing and Government also took them into account. She said the THA’s views also were fully considered by the Hamid Ghany team which examined the self-government framework.
Persad-Bissessar added: “So the criticism of ‘no consultation’ is far from the truth, totally false, misconceived to hoodwink the people... it is hypocritical, trite, sly and cheap politicking. “Mr London himself put forward proposals which were accepted and put into the legislation, so the recommendations have been included in the bill.”
Persad-Bissessar also said the PNM had discriminated against its Tobago members, since it approved the one-man-one-vote system to elect a leader, yet left its Tobago branch with the delegate system to elect the PNM’s Tobago leader. She said Government’s move to have the bill examined by a joint select committee of Government, Opposition and Independent members would have met the scrutiny Rowley demanded.
Persad-Bissessar said the PNM also was contradicting itself by being against the bill but at the same time supporting the principle of the bill. “Man shall not live by principle alone. We need the flesh on the principle,” she argued. The PM said the PNM’s manifestos did not include self-government policies for Tobago and the PNM also had punished Tobagonians for supporting Robinson over the years.
She said former PNM leader Patrick Manning, in 1996 supported legislation for self-government for Tobago, yet Rowley had adopted a “backward” posture, rejecting the 2013 bill ahead of debate. She read a contribution by Manning on the issue and a similar statement by PNM’s Fitzgerald Hinds in support of self-government.
The PM said the PNM had flip-flopped on the issue. Persad-Bissessar also waded into The Platform of Truth leader Hochoy Charles, noting Rowley’s recent statement on people he wanted to link up with to run T&T. The PM hoped before Tobagonians voted on Monday, they would hear the views of all their representatives on the bill.
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