Tag Archives: Tobago

All in One: A Political cook up, Tobago Style

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As we approach the 2015 General Election Tobago and the Tobago House of Assembly would play a critical role.  There are so many pressing issues relating to Tobago that would highlight the campaign that the nation must play careful attention to.  Recently the Ground Report did several morning programmes in Tobago and many issues came to the forefront, voiced by Tobagonians about the current state of affairs in Tobago under the tenure of the Chief Secretary Orville London since 2001 and the People’s National Movement.    We will begin to examine some of these issues as they relate to Tobago and its development.

These issues affecting Tobago are not disconnected from each other and it is the reason why I can this first commentary, All in One – a popular Tobago Dish, what you have you just throw it in the pot and cook it up.   While reading keeping this concept in mind because everything is in an all in one dish, so while it appears that I might go off in some directions, whatever is in the all in one in essential to understanding the complexity of the dish, therefore one can see the connection of all the issues and how they are interrelated.

We will begin with human capital because it is the most valuable asset in any society.   The foundation of human capital development is education.   Despite the presence of more secondary schools on the island, comparatively there has been less education on the island.   Tobago once prided itself where some of the most outstanding and educated citizens came from Tobago and competed at the highest levels.   That generation is disappearing.

Less than 40% of students leave the secondary schools with more 5 or more subjects.   This is the beginning of the pipeline of dependency that is systematically exploited politically.   There are no sustainable jobs because major industries that once held commercial value are struggling or have been abandoned, respectively tourism and agriculture.

There are an interconnectedness among education, the naturally available industries, and development outcomes.    These are the factors that creates the foundation for strong economic growth but there is more than a disconnect between all and it appears that the Tobago House of Assembly and some people in Trinidad and Tobago cannot connect these for the shaping of effective policies for better and sustained outcomes.

I am going to try to break this down as simple as possible, with the claim that Tobago does not have the capacity to feed itself.  It once did.

While you would never starve in Tobago because of the wide variety of fruits and other things that naturally grow without systematic cultivation, like green bananas and bhagi.  You can catch a yardie, to dig up some provision from a small dasheen patch, lend hand in siene pulling for some greenback and jacks and still don’t have to go to the supermarket.  So while eating this way requires some resourcefulness if one lives alone, getting something to eat is relatively easy especially.   Additionally, in Tobago, some granny, mommy or tanty is almost always around and food is always available.   I write like this to demonstrate what I saw with my own eyes during the time I spent in Tobago of how people live, survive and support each other.  They are the collective experiences of people I know that are repeated in village and after village only with the people changing but in essence the issues are the same.  People generally live well with each other and the spirit of sharing and hospitality remains

Despite the fact you would not starve, a major segment of young people who have left the secondary schools without the necessary qualifications to get long term sustaining jobs and end up on make work programmes such as URP and CEPEP are on the brink of poverty.  These are the individuals who not only depend on the government but also on the generosity and kindness of family even though granny have to spend the old age pension to feed some grandchildren and at times their children.    Mind you, everyone might be working dong a little “morning wuk” but money from that job is not enough for oneself, so where one can get free food all the time one will take advantage of this, instead of contributing money for groceries at home.   That little relief money becomes pocket change to buy credit for phone, alcohol, and cigarettes but it is not nearly enough to do anything substantial.

Tobagonians pay more when they go to the supermarkets compared to Trinidadians.    Tobago’s food import bill is out of control and this is where we must begin to connect the dots with the everyday realities of some people with policy making decisions and outcomes.    The things we are capably of cultivating in Tobago we are importing them.    This was never the case.   The capacity to produce our own food is essential to future development outcomes.

When the earning potential of a wide cross-section of your population is capped (those who cannot find jobs without 5 subjects) what is socially constructed and ultimately reproduced is an underclass, an almost permanent one.  This is why education has the greatest capacity to break and permanently disrupt cycles of poverty.

The high agricultural output of the past is very low.   The Scarborough Market which received a great deal of commentary during the morning programmes by the Ground Report is enough evidence about the state of agriculture.  Markets are the central hubs of commerce and the food culture of a people.  The market in any city or town allows you to encounter real people and tourists flocks for authentic experiences.    I have visited markets in Africa, Europe, Mexico and other Caribbean Islands, and if not for the tourists, for the vendors then the people they prevent from starving deserve a better market in Tobago.   The working conditions for these vendor are deplorable and the market is shameful to look upon.   It is a turnoff for tourists whose cruise ships docks a few yards away on the port but even more repulsive for locals who enter when need dictates.

Our vendors however should be commended because they are vital to keeping us alive.  Despite the added cost most get their products from Trinidad.  So the items once cultivated in Tobago are now commodities coming from Trinidad and elsewhere.    It is possible that the quantity of ground provisions, peas, peppers, and the myriads of things we import that can be grown in Tobago be slashed by 20 to 30 percent.

When a significant workforce such as CEPEP and URP workers are engaged in tasks below their human potential and their real earning capacity is not utilized for self-growth, it shows the lack of innovative and effective policies.   Agriculture and downstream agribusiness have tremendous potential to assist in the awakening of Tobago’s dormant economy.   When money is set aside for relief programmes, less is allocated towards other development needs.   This is not an attempt to pick on the “underprivileged” but it is intended to demonstrate that the poverty and dependency syndrome is created and fueled by failed cyclical policies.

 

 

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The Political Round Up Part II: PNM, Perception, Penny (and more)

 

In Part II of The Political Roundup for February we will turn our attention to national politics dealing mostly with the PNM internal elections.   We will explore Constitution Reform nationally and its significance to Tobago.   Additionally we will further explore the political maneuverings of Internal Self-Government.  

Rowley & Beckles

Let us begin with the internal elections of the PNM.  From the looks of it, when the PNM faithful votes in May Dr. Keith Rowley will keep his current post as Political Leader.  From the outside, the candidacy of Penelope Beckles-Robinson can be viewed as an attempt to strengthen the party and attract new members, but the discourse on social media (a good pulse of public opinion); the tide has turned against Beckles-Robinson and her candidacy is not welcomed.   The attacks against Beckles-Robinson on social media are telling but what percentage of these individuals are registered party members who will actually vote in the election is all that matters.    The party establishment for the most part will back Dr. Rowley the anointed candidate as they have always done with the next in line.  However, the ‘villianification’ of Beckles-Robinson also has the possibility to backfire on the party because the perception of ‘doing it to their own’ will only set up greater offensives moves by the PP and the type of campaign they will wage in 2015 to remain to government.   

While there will be enough time to write more on the internal elections of the PNM the next few months there will be interesting developments as it plays out.   Dr. Rowley will have to use this time to look prime ministerial and change perception for the floating vote. Perception of these ‘old school’ PNMites does not sit well with a large part of the population, and in politics, perception is a lot and it matters.     The victories in 2013 gave the party some momentum but the party has to also demonstrate that it is ready for government, has the capacity to unite the population and can secure a working constitutional majority in the Parliament.   Getting their hands on the treasury though important should be the least of their concerns because they will only set themselves up and their own words would be used against them.  Nevertheless, we will have enough time to explore this but let it be known, 2015 is going to be a fight and a very expensive general election.   

Let us now move on to the issue of Constitutional Reform.   This would be further addressed in greater detail but it must be included in this roundup.   The People’s Partnership will bring a Constitutional Reform Bill before the Parliament but we are not sure about its passage, it is doubtful. There will be tremendous opposition from the PNM, but this too can be a political trap for the PNM and a tactical strategy of the PP.  Some Opposition MPs have already went on the record stating that they will not support any constitutional changes, and this is a possible strategy to paint them as the status quo, the party of no change, (not even a Penny, (for the sake of picong).   The PP will use history and everything the PNM has said while ever in power to the present to shift the focus from its current record, allegations of perceived corruption and the mistakes of past four years. While Rowley has tried extensively to define himself as anti-corruption, standing up to Manning in 2009 against UDeCOTT, whether its passion or anger on Rowley’s part, the Opposition Leader has to clean up this image and show his capacity to engage and not outrage or instill fear in others.       

On the other hand, should the bill pass, the 2015 election will proceed as normal, but the government formed afterwards will not last an entire five years because of the pending changes in the constitution.   This will be done so there is no unfair advantages and to accommodate the electoral changes of the reform. 

What about Tobago?  

Tobago has to make itself a greater part of the national conversation in many matters but when it comes to Constitutional Reform many now believe a mistake was made on the part of the Commission.  During the consultation Chief Secretary Orville London suggested that the Commission take into consideration the on going debate on internal self-government.  The Commission obliged to the request and while it is an Independent Commission, during the time of the consultation it was strategic for the PP to tone it down and give some concessions after the defeat of the TOP in the January election.   

There was no direct engagement on the Tobago issue of internal self-government between the government and the Tobago House of Assembly during the latter half of 2013 and the Prime Minister did not bring it up.    Nevertheless, people were asking for clarity between the PNM in Tobago and the PNM in Trinidad because the PNM historically supported greater autonomy for Tobago.   Media reports from the Chief Secretary and the Opposition Leader showed that they were not on the same page, going as far back as April 2013 when London asked the Commission that Internal Self-Government should not collide with Constitution Reform.

A meeting in January convened by Chief Secretary Orville London brought together the leaders of the TOP (Ashworth Jack), the TPT (Hochoy Charles) and Neil Wilson, Chairman of the Tobago Council of the PNM and called for a for a ‘one voice approach.’   Plans to meet again in February fell through, as Ashworth Jack was not able to attend delaying the talks.  Jack expressed some skepticism after the first meeting, but a subsequent PNM meeting in John Dial as well as Ministry of Tobago Development meeting about Constitution Reform may have unsettled some nerves about this ‘one voice approach.’  

London’s consensus approach must be backed up my some genuine commitment from the PNM in Trinidad to support whatever gets laid in the Parliament.  London was quoted in the Tobago News;   “The ideal situation should be one where there is almost consensus before it does not matter who takes it to the Parliament.”   This sounds ideal, but politics is not the ideal world, it is the world in reality.    

The Commission was faulted for conceding to London’s request.    If Tobago’s autonomy was dealt with fully by the Commission the ball game would have turned out differently and while there is more to say about this, if the Opposition is showing no current support for Constitution Reform, if the Tobago question was included, it too would be squashed but we don’t know what will be the outcome after it is tabled in the Parliament.       

In Part III, we will deal with the TOP, the ILP, the Ministry of Tobago Development and other happenings as we conclude the Political Roundup for February.

The Political Roundup: Smart Moves, BUT…..

In an effort to keep readers updated and to give you some analysis of the political happenings in Tobago (and Trinidad) last month I began a series entitled The Political Roundup.   The Roundup will continue monthly and will provide a careful analysis on the developments taking place within Tobago and by extension Trinidad.    This will be done in three parts because there is much to address.   

In January in Traffic Light Politics we gave an overview of the interesting 2013 political year.   In early February I wrote, The Political Callaloo of Internal Self-Government, which you might want to read to fully understand what went down in February.   Certainly we should mention with the Carnival season picking up pace till it winds down next week, access of information at times has been limited as media coverage devote a tremendous amount of time to covering the fetes etc.   However, developments are taking place.   

We had a reshuffle of a few THA Secretaries.   This was hailed as a relatively good move, if nothing else, for the stability in Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports.   The Division must make a full 180 degree turn and the new Secretary Cadette has supported a collaborative effort with Division of Community Development and Culture to hold a Tobago Music Festival.  In light of the cancellation of the National Music Festival, this was move is thumbs up and an overall good initiative with intentions to expand.    DEYAS must work simultaneously in fixing itself internally and turn towards efforts to support schools.   While we should not give them ‘a bly’ this year, and the exam is not yet written we are awaiting the outcome of SEA exams, which should provide evidence of the type of supports the schools needs to raise student achievement.   

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His Excellency President Anthony Carmona, the Honourable Orville London, Chief Secretary and Councillor Deon Isaac, Secretary Division of Settlement and Labour.

 

The elevation of Councillor Deon Isaac to the Secretary of Division of Settlement and Labour was also a wise decision.    Isaac proved his capacity as an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Chief Secretary and was instrumental in keeping the administration ‘close to the people’ in the spearheading the Public Interest Desk and the Face to Face monthly sessions.   A pragmatic approach towards housing and acceleration on delivery of units or lots to individuals to build their own should the focus of his new portfolio.    Furthermore, in regards to Labour, there should be some public education on the goals and objectives of this department.   Its policy objectives should be oriented towards improving productive outcomes within the THA.  Sounds pragmatic and common sense to me!  

During the month of March we will further explore policy frameworks as it relates to education and levels of productivity within the THA.    The current administration can count these two major moves as steps in the right direction, but when it comes to incomplete project, the grade goes down.   

The Shaw Park Roundabout and the Hospital Laundry are the latest of a string of incomplete and delayed projects.   The library is also delayed.   These are serious problems this administration must tackle with a greater sense of urgency.    If not it will be used against them in the 2015 general election and if there is nothing else this PNM needs more, it is a return of these two seats in the PNM.  That is the most the Tobago Council of the PNM can do to help the PNM take back the government from the ruling People’s Partnership.

In Parts II and III we will address the issue of Constitution Reform, Internal Self Government and the other players on the current political landscape, the TOP, the ILP, and the MDD.   We will also examine the interplay of national politics, the PNM internal elections and the objectives of the government to stay on power.   

I had to write this, for the sake of Malachi and others

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  This is a quote by the one of the greatest individuals of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi.   My dog Malachi recently passed away.   Initially I thought he contracted some illness but I have come to the conclusion that Malachi was poisoned.   Furthermore, it has come to my understanding that several other dogs died on the hill where I lived whereby one person stated, “the whole hill reeked of dead dogs.”   Reading the paper this week a tourist wrote in about the plight of stray dogs in Tobago which prompted me to write about animal abuse and animal rights.

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Malachi, 2012-2014

Malachi was not a stray dog.   My sister and I found him when he was less than two weeks old.   He was in litter of five, all males and while it was difficult just to pick one, we choose the brown one and named him Malachi.   Like many dogs in Tobago, Malachi spent most of him time outside and was pretty much free to come and go as he pleased.    There were times when he came inside the house but for the most part he stayed outside sleeping on the gallery at nights or a few houses down the hill by my grandparents.   I took him to the beach and once after I threw him the water the avid swimmer came out and made his way to ‘Green Corner’ and was ‘missing’ for three days.  My cousin found him, I went to collect him and he was back at being a dog, chasing chickens, sometimes taking them out.    With dirt always on his nose, he was well on his way to becoming a hunting dog and several individuals asked me for him.

Many people take good care of their dogs, both hunters and those who have a dog for the sake of having a pet.   Hunters ensure that the dogs see the vet for vaccines and I was grateful when a team of vets came and spayed and neutered dogs to control the population.     Malachi was too young for this procedure when the vets came in August 2012.    Nevertheless there are many strays dogs or ‘bay dogs.’   These dogs do not have any ‘legitimate’ owners but many of them developed their own characters and found food wherever they could, many times from trash.  At times the plight of these dogs bothered me, the way they were treated by some people was simply cruel but household dogs were like family members to some.   My grandmother who was Malachi’s caretaker in my absence became very fond of him and in the past few weeks when he spending too much time away from home, she would leave home to go find him.

Recently the ‘dangerous dogs’ bill was debated in the Parliament, but what about the ‘dangerous people’ bill for those who deliberately abuse and kills these animals.  There are more dangerous people than there are dangerous dogs out there.  I sympathize with the family of those who were attacked and killed by dogs, but all dogs, even pit-bulls can be trained.   Many people have a natural fear of dogs but it is the responsibility of the own to properly train their dogs to prevent them from becoming dangerous to humans.  If a dog attacks and kills a human being the dog should be humanely put to sleep but there should be serious consequences for those who abuse and kill animals.

You might not love dogs but you have no right to kill them those dogs that do not belong to you.  I understand the differences in cultures in how we treat dogs but the abuse of animals is widespread worldwide.  My dog in NY spends a significant amount of time inside because of the weather in the winter but he sleeps outside all spring and summer in his kennel.

While much can be said about Gandhi’s quote that I am not going to get into, it has some relevance when we examine the situation. For one, if as individuals we treat our animals well; it speaks volumes of how we will treat our fellow human beings, especially children and the elderly – those who tend to be the most vulnerable in our society.   Likewise, if as individuals we treat our animals poorly; it speaks volumes of how we will treat our fellow human being, especially children and the elderly – those who tend to be the most vulnerable in our society.

While we cannot compare the life of a dog or cat to that of a human being, when someone makes a decision to poison innocent animals, it is rather troubling and disturbing.

House of ????? Name to be determined.

 

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I will admit it much of my weekend was spent binge watching House of Cards, season two, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.   When I ran out of episodes of the American version, I turned to the original British version starring Ian Richardson.   Immediately, I began to see the parallels that existed between the American Netflix series and its original version.  

I will also admit that much of my writing over the past two weeks have slowed down.   My cousin’s recent passing really shook me, but more so the slow news cycle and sometimes the general lack of information coming out from Tobago.   The three major daily newspapers do not provide reliable and consistent coverage of Tobago while the Tobago News prints only twice a week.  Additionally, the carnival season is in full swing and this has a major effect on the type of news one has access to.   Furthermore, I have been paying greater attention to my dissertation.   

So much to say, a combination of factors has slowed me down but let’s get into today’s topic.   I am still waiting on reports from the Constitutional Commission Reform that took place yesterday in Tobago and will soon reach out of some of my sources to see what actually went on, but today we will blur the lines between House of Cards and the politics taking place in Tobago (and Trinidad).  

The idea for this came when I started watching the original British version of House of Cards.    Given that the American version focuses solely on Washington and the British on the Westminster Parliament, the comparison and now my attempted application of this fictitious series to the politics of Tobago (and Trinidad) as the Constitution Reform advocates a hybrid model between Washington and Westminster.   

First, is the name of the series ‘House of Cards.’  We have two options here.  We can go with ‘House of Ass’ (no pun intended, but laugh anyway) or the ‘House of Bly’ a play off local dialect, given that a ‘bly’ is a favor, which the local population can easily relate when coming to politics.  I welcome other suggestions, but the two frontrunners are a play off the House of Assembly. 

Second, we must consider characters and plots. Who will play Francis?  Who will play Claire?  What about Zoe?  Clearly, this is where this series strays from both the originals.   The executive producer must consider the cultural differences that will make the show really unique.   A major decision must be made here as because if we focus primarily on Tobago we limit ourselves to the amount of characters, but including the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago will no doubt diversify the storylines and add some colorful characters.   

Perhaps we can use the ‘Internal Self-Government’ storyline to include the Tobago aspect but make a conscious decision that allows it to be one of the major storylines.  In the meantime, here are some storylines that we can possibly explore: 

  1. Emailgate
  2. Cocaine Juice
  3. Internal Elections in the different political parties
  4. Oil Spills & Dump Fires
  5. Section 34
  6. Parliamentary Privilege:  Parliamentarians behaving bad
  7. Show & Tell: Why do we come here every fourth Thursday?
  8. How to win an election? Picong Style
  9. Turf Wars
  10. Peace in Pretoria

I say let’s start a casting call; we might be really on to something here.    So there you have it, when news is lacking you find the parallels, identify the story lines, and turn it into fiction.      

Breaking the Silence about Child Sexual Abuse in Tobago

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Speak Up, Speak Out

Children in every society must be protected.   For far too long we have turned blind eyes to the issue of sexual abuse against children.   When news of the recent incident broke many people took to social media to condemn the allegations but confirmed the fact that abuses of this nature against children and teenagers girls have been going on for decades.    Victims courageously spoke out and people began relating stories of their knowledge of these horrendous crimes against children.

The alleged actions of this individual should be condemned to the highest level.   The size of our population no doubt has an effect on reporting these incidents but even worse are the cover ups of allegations of this nature committed by prominent people who are still active in the society.  The fact is, this cuts deep, but gone are the days when we allow our collective hypocrisy, which easily masks itself in religious piety to be an excuse providing a safe haven for pedophiles and rapists.       We can no longer sanitize this issue and it must be called for what it is, and the perpetrators must be called by what they are.

The allegations of these incidents at the Scarborough Seventh Day Adventist Primary School should not be viewed as an isolated incident.   They should not leave our attention focusing purely on schools, but the wider society, because some men within the society are likely to do the same.   In all reality, if someone in a position of trust, a professional and spiritual capacity within the school and the church, what is to be said of the ordinary adult males who choose to engage in inappropriate relationships with children?

Prior to the arrest of this principal, the issue to teenage pregnancy was dominant in the national media.   No data was provided for Tobago in the Minister of Education Report during a question raised to him by Independent Senator Dr. Victor Wheeler.    Where are the numbers for Tobago? Can anyone give an account of how many teenage pregnancies occurred in Tobago? There has to be at least one for the past four years.   The Division of Health and Social Services must have access to this information.  It is the responsibility of those in authority to provide this data.

There is a legal difference when consenting adults engage in a sexual relationship and cases where a minor (child, of either gender) is involved.  Gender neutrality is important, because the same law is broken if the adult was female and minor a male, though historical, this is less likely to happen.

At the forefront of all the current rage, the stories of the victims must never be silenced. The children who came forward are brave and courageous.    These children have spoken for their generation but also generations gone who voices were suppressed and for those to come who should never experience the harm of sexual abuse.

At the end of the day, this must be about protecting the welfare of children.

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The Political Callaloo of ‘Internal-Self-Government’

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Callaloo is a complex dish and there are many variations of this popular Trinibagonian dish.   It probably can be argued that every household has their own special twist on callaloo.   One of the final steps in making callaloo is to put it in the blender and mix it all up.  Cooking callaloo is the backdrop of our discussion today because as the debate over Tobago’s Internal Self-Government continues, it is clear that the process is rather complex, much like the dish of callaloo.   

The Ingredients

  1. The PNM
    1. The Executive Council
    2. The Chief Secretary
    3. The THA
    4. PNM Tobago Council
    5. As the National Opposition
    6. All Others
      1. The TOP
      2. Two Tobago Seats, Tobago East/Tobago West
      3. The Prime Minister
      4. TOP Island Council
      5. The Ministry of Tobago Development (MTD)
      6. The People Partnership (PP)
      7. The Platform for Truth (TPT)
      8. The Movement for Democracy & Development (MDD)
      9. Independent Liberal Party (ILP-Tobago)

With all these players and their relationship, it is no wonder why Internal Self Government for Tobago is a complicated matter.   I will try present an overview of the matter as it relates to the different entities.   Furthermore, it will be analyzed against the backdrop of a pending 2015 general election and the recent reports of the Constitution Commission.     

  1. The PNM as a political party is in government in Tobago but they are the national opposition.  The party rebounded significantly in 2013 with victories in Tobago and St. Joseph including major pickups in the local government elections in Trinidad.   The clean sweep in THA puts the two Tobago seats into play, and if the Tobago Council can deliver this in 2015 it would mean less work for the PNM in Trinidad in those marginal constituencies.     
    1. The Executive Council – Tobago’s steering committee headed by the Chief Secretary and inclusive of other THA Secretaries, whether elected or appointed.  Similar to the cabinet.  
    2. The Chief Secretary (Orville London) – In what appears to be a complete turnaround, he has led the call for Tobago’s autonomy after the 2013 election.   
    3. The THA – The “State” operates under Tobago House of Assembly Act 1996.    The Act does not give Tobago legislative capacity, merely “oversight” capacity.    
    4. PNM Tobago Council – The Tobago arm of the national PNM.  Established in 1998, the PNM made it presence known in Tobago during the first decade of 21st century remaining in control of the THA.
    5. PNM (as the National Opposition) – 2013 was an upward year for the PNM as the National Opposition.   The party has a predominantly African base and shows no intention that it is open to coalition politics, evident by statements such as “we will win alone, we will lose alone.”  How likely it is for the PNM to gain national power depends efforts to rebrand the image of the party as inclusive and that of its current leader who in the words of his former leader “is out of control” and when opposed “becomes like a raging bull.” 

As it relates to the national PNM and Tobago’s Autonomy there is no clear clarion sound.    The Tobago PNM Council, the Executive Council, the Chief Secretary are for self-government in principle, like all other stakeholders who reached that obvious conclusion.    The “how” of self-government is something the party has not clearly articulated and questions are being raised by the other players about their genuine interest in the process and whether or not it’s political gamesmanship for the 2015 general elections? 

  • MDD takes a position that the Chief Secretary is setting up Tobago for a refusal by the Central Government to move the process forward so that he can go to Tobagonians in 2015 to say that the Central Government doesn’t want to give Tobago full autonomy. He is of the belief that Tobagonians will then vote the PNM back into power in Tobago. Full autonomy for Tobago is a no-no from the PNM, Rowley or whoever else is in charge; so Tobagonians need to tell the Chief Secretary in no uncertain terms to stop trying to fool Tobagonians yet again. Today, even the Central Government has realized the monster that has been created in the THA and the Chief Secretary. A dictatorship of the highest order in Tobago. (MDD, from a recent column in Tobago News)
  • “The PNM had said that they will not participate, as much as I would like to see Tobago achieve internal self-governance, my question is exactly what is expected. My only fear is that sometimes I wonder if this isn’t a ploy to get something to speak about for the elections of 2015, that’s my only concern,” says Jack. (Ashworth Jack, TOP Political Leader)

Part II – The Ingredients Continued

  1. All Others 
    1. The TOP – After suffering a humiliating defeat at in 2013 THA polls, the TOP current claim as political force was secured in its 2010 victory of the two Tobago seats in the national parliament.   A partner in the PP government, Tobago is allowed a voice at the cabinet level through the establishment of the Ministry of Tobago Development.
    2. Two Tobago Seats, Tobago East/Tobago West – These two seats in the past have proven to be the makers and breakers of government.    The Tobago electorate is one that gets vex quickly and no part should take these seats for granted.    The TOP will do its utmost best to keep these seats and the PNM will work extra hard to gain control of these two seats.    From the looks of it, the 2015 general election might be a three way race, should the ILP field candidates. 
    3. The Prime Minister – PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar has Tobago on a political time out but this might be all part strategy.  She is aware of the need for those two Tobago seats not necessarily to remain in government, but as a watchdog if nothing else on the Assembly.   She has others to do her bidding in Tobago and National Constitution Reform by no means is higher on her agenda.  
    4. TOP Island Council – A council in chaos.   The Council must resolve it leadership crisis or be outplayed by the ILP, to the liking of the PNM.  Political Leader Ashworth Jack is facing a battle within the party from an internal pressure group, Forward Movement.   At the helm of this charge is Dr. Baker, Anslem Richards, along with the support of the former Minister of Justice Christlyn Moore.  The TOP has to worry about the split vote factor with the presence of the ILP because the core of ILP supporters in Tobago are former TOP members/voters.  
    5. The Ministry of Tobago Development (MTD) – The successor of the once Ministry of Tobago Affairs (that was shut down by Eric Williams). The MTD led by Dr. Baker is the presence of the Central Government in Tobago.  Deemed obstructionist by the THA, there is constant turf battles between both entities.    Should the PNM win at the polls in 2015, the life of MTD is jeopardy whereby the plug is more than likely to be pulled by Rowley.   MTD however has sought to define itself, namely pushing for Integrated Campus in Tobago East and making available resources to community based organizations bringing the resources of the central government directly to Tobago.  
    6. The People Partnership (PP) — The current government, and unlike the PNM has embraced coalition politics, comprising of several parties, inclusive of the UNC, COP, the TOP and NJAC.  On its 4th year in power, 2013 saw a string of defeats of partnership along with a variety of issues that have plagued the government since its inception.    The party maintains its regional ethnic Indian base in south-central Trinidad but if one should trace the historically underpinnings and beginnings, even under the leadership of Basdeo Panday in the 1970’s (as Opposition Leader to Eric Williams) in a former incarnation as the United Labour Front, there were efforts to unite the races in the form of a “workers struggle.”  When asked if sugar (Indian) and oil (black) can mix, Panday said yes, “it makes sweet oil.”       
    7. The Platform for Truth (TPT) – Under of the leadership of former Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles, the party claims to be the only authentic Tobago party.   A breakaway from the TOP, Charles is an unrepentant advocate for Tobago’s autonomy and despite little chances of future political success; the TPT seeks to remain relevant in ongoing debates about Tobago’s future.        
    8. The Movement for Democracy & Development (MDD) — The MDD has positioned itself in the politics as an “intellectual” movement.    Though they fielded no candidates in the 2013 THA Elections, they campaigned against the Tobago Bill piloted by the Prime Minster, especially for more nautical miles.  The evangelist of this movement, Dr. Vanus James estimated the GDP of Tobago to be TTD $17 Billion by 2017 should oil and natural gas be exploited off Tobago’s coast.  According to the MDD  “MDD believes that the most pressing problem facing Tobago is the lack of a mechanism to provide oversight by the residents of Tobago to control the Chief Secretary’s actions so that when the executive acts, it does so in accordance with the will of the people of Tobago” (From MDD Column in Tobago News).  
    9. Independent Liberal Party (ILP-Tobago) – Simply put it, the ILP wants in.    Despite being less than one year, the ILP gained one seat in the Parliament.   Jack Warner left government, went back to the polls, amidst corruption allegations and this early success the party is seeking to emerge as the “third force” to replace to COP.    The ILP fever spread to Tobago and Lionel Coker’s departure from the TOP sought to seek new political grazing grounds.  All indications show that the ILP is preparing for electoral runs in Tobago.  Recent meetings in Tobago with Warner at the helm, the appointment of Shadow THA Secretaries and calls to be included in the self-government talks are no doubts that the ILP wants in.  Warner recently accused both the THA and the PP government for “gang raping” the treasury.   

 

The fact of the matter is Internal Self Government is a highly complicated matter.   While there are calls for a “One Voice Tobago Approach” the web of alliances and future political gains or losses for all involved makes its worse than putting callaloo in a blender.