THA Assemblymen discuss the way forward after meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Wednesday.

Chair of the Tobago Chapter of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) Diane Hadad says the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement’s willingness to discuss a Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) proposal to governing Tobago temporarily is a “good sign.”

However, while the PNM is considering the proposal, the PDP says it’s non-negotiable.

This after all 12 assemblymen met Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to discuss breaking the THA impasse created because the assemblymen were unable to elect a Presiding Officer and constitute the Assembly following the 6-6 deadlock in the January 25, 2021, THA elections. It was at that meeting the PDP made its proposal.

The PDP proposed to support the PNM’s choices for Presiding Officer and Chief Secretary. In exchange, it wants the positions of Deputy Presiding Officer, Finance Secretary, two councillor positions and half of the remaining executive positions.

The PDP, however, proposed sharing the responsibility of governing Tobago temporarily with the PNM. This is expected to occur until the JSC completes its work on the Tobago Autonomy Bill or the amended THA bill is proclaimed and fresh elections called.

Speaking on CNC3’s the Morning Brew with host Jessie-May Ventour yesterday, Davidson-Celestine, the area representative for Lambeau/Signal Hill, said the party is willing to discuss how to govern Tobago under the 6-6 deadlock.

“We in the PNM are very open to coming to a decision in terms of treating with the resolution and, of course, determining the way forward,” Davidson-Celestine said.

Asked if the PNM also has a proposal to resolve the impasse, she said it did. She said when the results of THA’s January 25, elections were known, the party said there should be fresh elections.

“We advanced because of what we saw that we should definitely go back to the polls because for us it was the most democratic way to resolve this particular issue and so you would have heard the Chief Secretary discussing with the Prime Minister and of course sending off correspondence to ensure we can have the change in the Tobago House of Assembly’s Act.”

Commenting on the parties’ collaboration, Hadad said the move is “a good one.”

“I think the proposal is fair. It’s good they are engaging each other. I hope it’s in a meaningful way…. The talking needs to end in something that results in the best interest of the island,” Hadad said.

On February 18, the chamber had called on Rowley to call off amending the THA Act in Parliament until the 12 assemblymen discussed the situation and worked on resolving it. They said “Tobago’s elders” should have facilitated the meeting.

However, even as Hadad praised the parties’ efforts, PDP leader Watson Duke yesterday said their proposal is “non-negotiable.”

Speaking during an interview on a local radio station aired on his Facebook page, Duke described Rowley as “calm” during their meeting. He said the PM offered going back to the polls with the 15 seats created by the amended THA Act or awaiting the outcome of the JSC’s work on the Tobago Autonomy Bill. He also said the PDP is not willing to negotiate the positions it requested.

“Those positions … are deal breakers for us,” Duke said.

Since the 6-6 tie in the THA elections and the assemblymen’s inauguration on January 28, they have not been able to elect a Presiding Officer and constitute the Assembly. This means Tobago does not have a functioning legislative arm of government.