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AG, London hold talks on self-government for Tobago
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and THA Chief Secretary Orville London met on Monday to discuss the way forward for attaining internal self-government for Tobago. The two, accompanied by their advisers, discussed the two bills approved by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Green Paper that emanated from a private intervention of a group of people. London described the 50-minute meeting at the Attorney General’s Office in Port-of-Spain as “very cordial, very instructive, very informative and very collaborative.” “We came out of that meeting heartened by the response, cautiously optimistic and trusting to the integrity of the Attorney General to take the case to Cabinet and to impress upon Cabinet, the points we would have made during the discussion,” he said.
The meeting was a follow-up to an exchange of letters from chairman of the Law Reform Commission Samraj Harripaul, SC, the Attorney General and London over the past five months. Harripaul had requested the views of the assembly on the Green Paper, intended to be issued for public comment. London, however, said he responded on behalf of the assembly informing him that it was not in agreement with this because it would have ignored the process which the THA had done for close to four years, resulting in two bills to Cabinet that subsumed the Green Paper.
He recalled that in December he received a letter from the Attorney General, indicating that as far as he was concerned, he understood the THA’s position and confirmed that the THA, the central government and the Leader of the Opposition were intent on ensuring that Tobago got the autonomy and the internal self-government which it had been seeking for so long. London said the Attorney General also pledged the commitment of the central government and recommended that two teams be set up to discuss the documents. He said he informed the Attorney General that before they could even get to that stage, it was necessary for them to meet to discuss certain outstanding issues because it was still not clear whether the central government was willing to accept the document from the THA.
The Chief Secretary said he presented the Attorney General with copies of the two bills approved in the THA, indicating to him very clearly that the THA was very aware that it did not have the authority to enact law. One bill seeks to amend the Constitution to provide for the entrenchment of certain provisions relating to the THA and related matters; the second aims at repealing and replacing the THA Act to provide for re-establishment of the THA, to prescribe its powers and functions a nd related matters. “These bills represent the sweat and tears and aspirations of Tobagonians over a long, long period,” London said. “There is absolutely nothing to be gained by putting that original Green Paper into the public domain at this point in time, it is a less comprehensive document and is less representative of the views of the people of Tobago.
London said the assembly submitted to the Cabinet, the consensus of the views and recommendations of the people of Tobago. He stressed that the process in which as many Tobagonians as possible would have been involved was free from political bias and political control and had to be sanctioned by the THA because it was the will of the people of Tobago. He said the Attorney General had no objection to that process, voiced no objection and none of the “learned gentlemen” present voiced any objection. The Chief Secretary said he told the meeting that the bills representing the views of the people of Tobago must be the document to be given priority for public comment because the Green Paper did not represent the views of all of Tobago and was subsumed in the bills.
London noted that the Attorney General quite rightly said he could not pre-empt the Cabinet and could not forecast what Cabinet would say, but he gave the commitment that he would take the document to Cabinet for discussion and a decision on which document would be put into the public domain. He said the Attorney General also gave the commitment that after the Cabinet had met, he would go to Tobago to resume discussions with the assembly. In addition to sending the bills to the secretary to the Cabinet, London also sent a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar, requesting a meeting to discuss the process.
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