FLASHBACK – The deadlocked Tobago House of Assembly in session on January 28th, 2021. (Image courtesy Assembly Legislature, THA)

The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) has expressed excitement at the prospect of an upcoming poll that is hoped will break the current deadlock in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

In Parliament on Wednesday September 15th, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley moved the motion asking the House to consider the Draft Report of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Order, 2021. 

The report recommends the creation of three new electoral districts in Tobago—a measure Government says will break the current six-six deadlock in the Tobago House of Assembly.

By a margin of 21 for, 18 against, the House approved the motion to consider the Draft Report of the EBC (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Order, 2021.  The House then adjourned to a date to be fixed.

The following is the full text of a statement issued by the PNM’s Tobago Council…

The PNM is excited that Tobagonians will finally get to make the big decision and elect the team to lead this island over the next four years.  The passage of amendments to the THA Act opens the gate for a return to the polls with 15 seats.

The entire PNM Tobago Council’s relief, after nine months of deadlock, is evident as it makes moves to win the hearts of Tobagonians in the next Tobago House of Assembly Elections.  While some may see the 6–6 situation as an unfortunate occurrence, this has propelled all of us into new realities where we have had to treat with the flaws in the Tobago House of Assembly Act.

This deadlock has pushed many of us to the limit.  It is unacceptable that representatives from the other political sides would malign the reputation of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) for cheap points.  Leaders should know better, and political agendas re no excuse for bad behaviour.

The threat of legal action by the UNC is unnecessary and another attempt to create drama to attract the public and media attention.  Will the UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar tear up the amendment, like she did the Autonomy Bills?

The people of Tobago will not be kind to the UNC and the PDP if they stymie this process after nine months.  Let us allow the democratic process to take its course.  Our people are tired and stressed from dealing with the effects of COVID and wish for a quick path to the polls.  It is unfortunate that we were not able to come to a resolution, before the PDP walked out of negotiations.

In the face of the PDP, and their legal counsels in the UNC, calls for a coin toss and threatening legal action for Tobago’s future, the majority of Tobagonians would agree that this is the only legal and democratic path to give the people power to decide the future direction of the island.

Naturally, the boundaries would be broken up and realignment of electoral districts are a part of the process.  An equally important issue is that the final outcome of 15 seats, which featured prominently in all consultations and discussions on autonomy for Tobago, will encourage better representation in the districts.

The focus now is on returning to the polls and on ensuring that our vision of the new and improved Tobago will soon emerge from these challenging times.  We are all maturing as an electorate, and this is good for this island’s future administration.