Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Ancil Dennis is determined to leave his mark on the landscape of the THA as he remains defiant in his stance of being “no political puppet”.
Dennis said he will use his eight months in office to increase Tobago’s capacity for food production and implement a regulatory policy for the island’s tourism sector.
Dennis spoke in an extensive interview with I95.5 FM host Natalie Ligoure yesterday. Dennis, who admitted to not being the brightest on the island or having all the best ideas, described his approach to leadership as, “Based on consultation and consensus to ensure that all views and all ideas are considered.”
According to Dennis, at no time has the political leader of the Tobago Council of the PNM Tracy Davidson Celestine ever given him a directive on what she wants done or see within the THA. He said, however, she has been consulted.
“There will be full discussion not only with Mrs Celestine as political leader but with other members as well,” he said.
Dennis said all ideas would be placed on the table and given consideration. However, he stood resolute in his position as head of the executive council of the THA.
“At the end of the day there is one Chief Secretary of Tobago House of Assembly,” Dennis said.
He also sought to justify his early comments about him being anxious to see Davidson-Celestine assume the position of Chief Secretary after the next THA elections due in January. He said the comment was based on the Westminster system of politics where “traditionally the political leader of the party becomes the Chief Secretary.”
Dennis who admitted that he had lost support for his predecessor Kelvin Charles, went on to say the custom of having a Chief Secretary serve a full term was abandoned in the case of Charles because tradition must also be supported by law.
“Their term of office is based on their ability to command the support of the majority of their peers.”
While he chose not to dwell on what he thought were the mistakes made by the former Chief Secretary, Dennis said, “This is politics and politics has to do with people and your ability to remain successful in politics has to with the kind of service and the kind of leadership you provide to the people.”
He said during his short tenure he plans to advance the mandate of food security and regulating Tobago’s tourism industry.
“I’m particularly disappointed by what occurs at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park as it relates to touting.”
He said he plans to ensure that reef boat operators and other tour operators adhere to guidelines, which will protect the island’s tourism product.
As it relates to the long-standing issue of more autonomy for Tobago, Dennis said the PNM in Tobago has brought the island the closest to the point of fulfilling that goal. And although the draft bill is currently before a Joint Select Committee, the bill requires the support of the Opposition.
“As long as the UNC government does the right thing and supports the bill when the time comes, then Tobago will receive its much needed and long-awaited autonomy.”
Dennis also addressed the public debate on the legitimacy of his appointment. He said he was elected as Chief Secretary by members of the house on May 8 and subsequently issued his instruments of appointment by the President on May 12, which he said “legitimised and legalised” his position as Chief Secretary.
“I was fully aware and apprised of my position and took no actions as Chief Secretary during that the time.”