Hours before a new Tobago’s new Chief Secretary is scheduled to be elected, Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Watson Duke has written to Presiding Officer Vanessa Cutting-Thomas, giving her until 1 pm today (May 6), to explain her legal authority to elect a new Chief Secretary.

In a letter shared with the media just before noon today, Duke said the THA’s Standing Orders do not give the Presiding Officer the authority to convene the Special Sitting.

He warns that he will take legal action to, either stop the Plenary Sitting or remove the new chief secretary, if one is elected.

Below is the full text of the letter to Presiding Officer, Vanessa Cutting-Thomas.

Mrs. Vanessa Cutting-Thomas
The Presiding Officer
Tobago House of Assembly

Dear Madam Presiding Officer

RE: Meeting of the Tobago House of Assembly – May 06, 3030 at 3.00pm

Pursuant to the notice that was sent yesterday, of a Special Meeting of the Assembly to facilitate the election of a new Chief Secretary, I find myself in a quandary having read the Standing Orders of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) several times.

The Standing Orders do not provide any clear mandate giving you the authority to elect a NEW Chief Secretary under the circumstances that currently prevail in the Tobago House of Assembly.

I have consulted with my lawyers and they have reason to believe that there is no such legal authority vested within your office, that allows you to facilitate the election of a new Chief Secretary under these circumstances. Therefore, it is with confusion and urgency that I request the following:

1. Please present the official legal advice received that gives you the confidence in your authority to facilitate the election of a new Chief Secretary (given the current circumstances);

2. That this matter be debated in the House of Assembly before an appointment is made, so the people of Tobago can participate through their Assemblymen in the debate;

3. That you solicit the agreement of both the Leader of Assembly Business and the Minority Leader on the elections this afternoon, as is the normal procedure for all Sittings of the Assembly;

4. While the Standing Orders allow you to interpret where it is silent, please indicate where that allows you to individually act on that interpretation without consultation with both the Leader of Assembly Business and the Minority Leader.

I humbly request a response to the four (4) specific concerns via email no later than 1pm today. Failure to do such would leave me with no option but to engage in legal action to either stop the sitting this afternoon and / or remove any Chief Secretary that is appointed there from.

I thank you and look forward to your urgent but timely response.

Sincerely,

Watson Solomon Duke
Area Representative (Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford)
Minority Leader, Tobago House of Assembly