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London calls on Govt: Pay up $625m owed to THA
Pay up the $625 million owed to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and revisit the Tobago self-government bill. These were the first two requests of chief secretary Orville London in his victory speech at the Old Market Square in Tobago on Monday night as the Tobago PNM Council gained a resounding and unprecedented victory over the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) in the THA’s election
“The best inauguration gift will be a cheque from the Minister of Finance,” London said. By 10 pm, with results still to come in from some polling stations, London was preparing to give his victory speech. All indications at that point were that the PNM had given the TOP a whitewash, capturing all of the 12 seats. Some dubbed it a red wash, red being the PNM party’s colour.
Declaring the Tobago PNM Council had an agenda to fulfill, London said the THA and the central government had to do a total rethink of attitudes and postures. “I am sending out an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. “Their greatest responsibility is towards those they have been called upon to serve.”
London said after he is installed as chief secretary tomorrow (for the fourth consecutive term), one of the first items on the agenda is for him and the PM to sit down and talk about the business of the people of Tobago. He said the $625 million outstanding from Government funding to the THA must be given to the assembly.
“We want it now!” a supporter shouted. London said the money should be made available to the THA in order for it to continue the development of the island. Further, the self-government issue must be conducted in an environment of mutual co-operation and respect. The Tobago PNM Council has rejected the Government’s self-government bill for the island, saying there was insufficient consultation with the people of Tobago.
London said he intended to put measures in place to ensure the people of Tobago have a greater say in the governance of the island. Putting the business of the people above party affiliations, he added, “The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago first before she is the leader of the UNC.
“And I am the leader of the THA before I am the leader of the Tobago PNM Council.” He also urged the council to put the people above the party. Dancing began in the square outside the PNM’s office from as early as 8.30 pm. An emotional London, addressing elated supporters who waved cocoyea brooms and rang Baptist bells, said he felt humbled and challenged by the victory.
He said the people of Tobago has placed a responsibility on him and his team to govern Tobago over the next four years. Thanking Tobago for its support, he said the win should not be viewed as a PNM victory but a victory for the people of Tobago. He said the PNM’s victory has sent a powerful signal to all of T&T that Tobago is prepared to lead the way and will follow under the guidance of a Tobagonian.
PNM chairman, Franklyn Khan, addressing supporters said under Rowley, the PNM has moved from defeat in the last general election to victory in Tobago. He introduced Rowley as the next prime minister of T&T. Noting that the campaign between the TOP and the PNM polarised Tobagonians, London urged all citizens to work together for the benefit of the island.
He called on supporters to display maturity after a two-day celebration of the victory. “Let us celebrate tonight and tomorrow. But (after that) there are attitudes we have to reject and mindsets we have to change,” he said.