Former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles believes the constitutional crisis created by the six-six election tie between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) could be resolved today if one Assemblyman crosses the floor, or the parties agree on a Presiding Officer.
The sitting begins at 9 am at the THA Chamber, Jerningham Street, Scarborough.
Prior to going to the chamber, the elected members will be sworn in by President Paula-Mae Weekes at the Magdelena Grand Beach and Golf Resort.
After they are sworn in, the first order of business is for the members to elect a Presiding Officer.
Both sides are expected to field names for that position.
If that process fails, no proceedings can take place in the Assembly, including the appointment of a Chief Secretary, and Tobagonians must then head back to the polls, Charles argued.
“They (the PDP and PNM) have been saying they have (decided on) their Presiding Officer and councillors. If the officer is not chosen, nothing can happen in the Chamber. Then it becomes a stalemate,” the former Chief Secretary told Guardian Media.
He says the PDP and PNM will want to choose their Presiding Officer as the individual has another crucial role to play.
“Once there is a Presiding Officer, the Assemblymen then choose a Chief Secretary by secret ballot. If there is a tie in that result, then the Assemblymen vote again. If there is a second tie, the Presiding Officer has the deciding vote and can say who becomes the Chief Secretary.”
According to the THA Act, the Chief Secretary chooses the Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries. The Secretaries form the Executive Council. The Council is in charge of the State’s funds and controls how Tobago is governed.
The impasse can be avoided if the PDP and PNM agree, Charles, said. The PNM says it will not make any deals while the PDP says it is willing to talk.
Meanwhile, Charles suggests Tobagonians should not return immediately to the polls if there is an impasse in the Assembly’s Chamber today.
“There may be another tie, then what? I suggest the existing Assemblymen remain in power, at least those that retained their seats. Then the THA Act is sent to Parliament to be amended so that there are 13 electoral districts. Then we head back to the polls.”