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A woman asks a question during the PNM’s Women in Leadership Forum at the Signal Hill Government School on Monday.

People’s National Movement’s (PNM) candidate for Tobago East Ayanna Webster-Roy is urging Tobagonians to lay the groundwork for Tobago’s advancement economically as the island prepares for more autonomy.

She was at the time speaking at the PNM’s Women in Leadership Forum on Monday at the Signal Hill Secondary School.

The forum, moderated by the PNM’s Tobago Council vice-chairman Marslyn Melville-Jack, saw Webster-Roy, and the party’s Tobago West candidate Shamfa Cudjoe, highlighting their accomplishments over the past years and expressing their hopes for the next parliamentary session.

Addressing the issue of more autonomy for Tobago, Webster-Roy promised the Tobago Autonomy Bill would be passed but cautioned that the island should develop in the meantime.

“We will get the autonomy that we crave, but are we preparing ourselves as Tobagonians? Are we looking to be more productive? Are we honestly giving an honest day’s work for the pay we receive? Are we looking to boost and to build the private sector in Tobago?”

She added, “In order for us to ensure the sustainable development of the island when we get the autonomy, we need a thriving private sector.”

According to the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) website in October 2016, the THA passed the final draft of the Autonomy Bill, after consultations across Tobago.

It was then sent to Cabinet. Cabinet appointed a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) to study its proposals. The JSC returned to Tobago for further discussions. According to the Parliament’s website, the bill lapsed on July 3, 2020.

Meanwhile, Cudjoe, who was Minister of Tourism for a while, said dissolving the Tourism Development Company (TDC) and creating two separate entities to market Trinidad and Tobago separately, was an important achievement.

“One of my major accomplishments would be having to dissolve the TDC. Now, five years later, it’s an accomplishment, but at that time…it was a very hard burden to bear…I noticed it (TDC) was not working out for Tobago. I could not stand there as a minister from Tobago and just let it slide,” she added.

She also cited the creation of tourism youth clubs in schools as another achievement.

Cudjoe also served as Minister of Sports.

She cited the Pink Reign Campaign, which focused on women, as a great achievement in that portfolio.

Cudjoe will face off against the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Tashia Grace Burris at the polls on August 10 in Tobago West. Independent candidates Nickocy Phillps and Ricardo Phillp will also compete for votes in that constituency.

Webster-Roy will compete with the PDP’s leader Watson Duke and One Tobago Voice’s Juliana Henry-King in Tobago East.