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Tashia Grace Burris

The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) candidate for Tobago West Tashia Grace Burris says it is false to assume that Tobago does not bring much to the union between Trinidad and Tobago.

“Tobago’s position in the Caribbean Sea affords Trinidad and Tobago its economic trade zone. If Tobago stood alone as a country, Trinidad will just have the space between us (Tobago) and them, and the space between them and Venezuela. As they are in a union with us (Tobago), our economic trade zone includes more than one hundred square miles between us and Grenada,” Burris explained.

In an interview with Guardian Media, she said Tobago’s importance to Trinidad’s economic well-being is not recognised.

She said, “It is time for Tobago to be treated with the respect it deserves. Trinidad must be fair. They must recognise what Tobago brings to the table. They must treat us from a place of goodwill. We have much to offer.”

Burris, the holder of two degrees—Bachelor and Masters, said Tobago’s society is also an important example for Trinidadians.

“When you look at us, you see the community spirit. You see people helping each other. COVID-19 reminded us about who we are as people. Tobago can be an example for the nation. In Trinidad, you see runaway crime. You see our education system failing,” the 34-year-old said.

She said since the PDP began its roofs’ repair programme in Tobago, “the love, and care for others in the community began to show again. The care for each other was there before politics took hold of society. We need to go back there.”

Asked what she felt is Tobago’s most pressing issue, she said the island needed more autonomy now.

Questioned further on the island’s capacity to sustain itself economically with more autonomy, she said the island has many resources.

The mother of two said COVID-19 allowed Tobagonians to realise that they can survive.

“We are in a position right now in a post-COVID Tobago where our borders are closed. The mainstay of the Tobago economy is tourism which obviously has its issues, but we have survived,” she said.

She added: “We now have the opportunity to get into certain sectors and create sustainable jobs … industries that will bring in much needed foreign direct investment.”

She identified industries like fishing, agriculture, and processing, along with the Studley Park quarry as areas for development.