Managing Director of Radio Tambrin George Leacock is advocating Tobagonians have a greater say in the governance of the island. So much so that he is proposing they have the right to remove their Assemblymen before the end of their statutory four-year term in office for illness, non-performance; the right to referenda on major issues, and the right to address the Assembly.
Those rights form the basis of Leacock’s several recommendations outlined in his May 12, 2021, written submission to the Joint Select Committee (JCS) on Tobago’s internal Self-Government.
The committee invited Tobagonians and Trinidadians to review the draft bills––Tobago Island Government (2021) and Constitution (Amendment ) Tobago Self-Government Bill 2021––and make written or verbal recommendations for possible inclusion in the committee’s scheduled report to Parliament back on May 31, 2021.
The committee met with Tobagonians virtually on April 30 and May 1 in Scarborough.
The Trinidad May 3 scheduled meeting was cancelled because only four persons showed interest. Participants were asked to send written submissions, the committee said.
Leacock was one who did so.
On the recommendation of recalling Assemblymen, he said he told the committee they should seek expert advice to ensure the measure stood up to rigorous scrutiny.
The idea was “not speculative,” he said and cited two examples he felt best exemplified the need to include his recommendation.
He said it could have been used when former Assemblymen Deborah Moore-Miggins registered her dissatisfaction with THA’s management by attending Plenary Sittings only for a roll call and during Hilton Sandy’s prolonged illness.
He said both situations denied constituents representation for extended periods.
He also identified other rights that should be in the drafts.
Leacock proposed Tobagonians be given the right to referenda, allowing them to share in decisions on large spending projects and projects affecting lifestyles.
He said other issues could be addressed by way of referenda if they garner a fixed percentage of signatures from eligible THA voters through a petition.
In Sandy’s situation, Leacock opined: “The Chief Secretary at the time, chose not to, or could not,––it was never clear which––take any action.”
The businessman said the right to referenda also hinges on the right to address the Assembly. He suggested it be granted to interested people or groups who apply to the Assembly’s Clerk for Plenary Sittings held specifically for the purpose.
Meanwhile, the JSC met with past and present Assemblymen on June 4 to discuss changes to the Tobago autonomy drafts.
The committee has been using information gathered from consultations held over many years in Tobago and with regional experts as the foundation for the drafts.