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Support growing for Tobago shutdown

Thursday, March 8, 2018

President of the Inter-Island Truckers Association Horace Amede says his motion calling for a two day shutdown of Tobago is meant to send a message to the powers that be that “this thing cannot continue.”
Referring to months of disruption on the seabridge, he said: “People are hurting and businesses are closing down.”

The shutdown, details of which are yet to be finalised, is getting support from the Minority Council of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Public Services Association, both led by Watson Duke.

Amede said the motion was supported by the majority of people who attended the stakeholders meeting where it was raised on Sunday. He said out of 150 persons one abstained and another was not in agreement.

“The concensus is that business people were in favour of it,” he said

Amede said a committee is being put together to sensitise the Tobago public on the need for the shutdown which is scheduled to take place before the Galleons Passage arrives in the country.

He said because of ongoing issues with the seabridge, truckers have suffered “immeasurably”, spending sleepless nights at the airport waiting for transportation to Tobago to ensure their trucks, which are transported on board a barge, arrive on time.

“Businesses have been failing, some of the hotels have no occupancy and they laying off staff,” said Amede. who estimates that close to 20 businesses have closed down since April last year when the problems started.

“If something does not happen Tobago will shut down on its own and business people will continue to suffer,” he said.

President of the Inter-Island Transport Committee of the Tobago Chamber Diane Hadad said there needs to be more discussion on the proposal to shutdown.

She said some hotels have bookings and therefore obligations to their guests and one contractor said he had obligations to an international client. Hadad said all options needed to be explored.

“If Tobago and Tobagonians, of which I am a born one and not one by boat, are going to take a stand I am going to support that stand whatever it is,” she said.

According to Hadad, Tobago is “already shut down technically so it does not take much to put the key on the door.”

At Sunday’s meeting there was a call for legal action tagainst the state for losses suffered by the business community on the island. Those losses, which are still being counted, are estimated to be in the region of $700 million.

Hadad said the Tobago Chamber has been told that THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles wants to meet with them on March 13. It will be the Chamber’s first meeting with Charles since he assumed office more than a year ago, although the group has made numerous response for talks.

THA Minority Leader Watson Duke said he is not surprised at the call for a shutdown.

“Tt was just a matter of time before it reached this explosive state,” he said.

Assemblyman Farley Augustine, who attended the meeting, said it was the first time he saw Tobagonians being “quite vociferous about how they feel about the situation.”


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