Chief Sec: 60 years too long for Tobago autonomy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine during his budget presentation at the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough in June. FILE PHOTO/THA –

As the country celebrates 60 years of independence, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine is calling for a resolution on Tobago’s self-governance.

In an interview with Newsday, Augustine said the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the relationship between the two islands in terms of governance and greater autonomy.

“This notion of internal self-governance brought by (late prime minister ANR) Robinson,,,pre-dated Robinson, with APT James, with James Biggart – we need for that to be settled once and for all.”

He said at 60, the country should not be having this debate still.

“There are many countries in the world, in the Commonwealth especially, that have arrangements whereby several parts make up a whole. So we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. What we need to do is to get moving and mature in terms of the politics that is required.”

The Tobago Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill were debated in the House of Representatives on June 28 and 29, 2021. The debate reached the committee stage. The motion called for the House to adopt the JSC’s report on the bills, which requires a three-fifths majority for passage.

However, the Opposition walked out of Parliament after the Speaker granted the Prime Minister an extension of speaking time during the debate. The Opposition and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) have claimed the autonomy bill does not represent the wishes of Tobagonians.

PDP leader Watson Duke has described the bill as “a vacant piece of paper” which does not properly define Tobago nor allow it to determine its political and economic structure.

The Draft Tobago Island Administration Bill proposes a minimum of 6.8 per cent of the national budget with no set maximum.

Tobago is also granted certain law-making powers previously not in its remit.

Augustine said apart from the autonomy issue, there are many successes that should celebrated.

“After 60 years of independence, we have a lot that we can celebrate.

“Tobago has contributed a lot to the nation’s development. We have contributed quite a number of stellar public servants even at the very start of our country as an independent nation. We provided to the nation, people such as Victor E Bruce – the first local governor of the Central Bank. We have produced heads of the public service, we have produced prime ministers, presidents – so we have our fair share of contribution to the national space.”

He said Tobago has also offered great wealth in terms of culture.

“We have been right there, neck and neck with Trinidad in terms of contributions through sport – through folks like Dwight Yorke and Claude Noel and several of our athletes. The point is, we have been there, we contributed a lot, we have seen successes but at 60 years, if we’re doing introspection and we are honest, there are still works that need to be done.”

THA calendar of events to celebrate independence:

August 27 – Art exhibition by Shonari Richardson

August 27 – Lighting up of Shaw Park Complex

August 28 – Open Heavens, Shaw Park Cultural Complex, 5.30pm

August 28 – Lighting up of the Buccoo Boardwalk and Sunday School activities, 7pm

August 29 – The people’s gala, Shaw Park Cultural Complex, 6pm

August 30 – Graduation ceremony for 2022 Work of Work trainees, Conference Hall, Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport, 10am

August 30 – Launch of the Northeast Tobago Man and the Biosphere Art Trail, 10am

August 31 – Independence Day parade, Dwight Yorke Stadium Parade Grounds, 8.30am

August 31 – Independence Day Street Festival, Waterfront, Milford Road Scarborough, 3pm

August 31 – Fireworks display, Waterfront, Milford Road, Scarborough, 8pm

September 1 – Youth Fishing Tournament, Castara Beach Facility, 9am

September 1 – Prize-giving ceremony for My Independence Story video presentation competition

September 1 – Conscious Castara bonfire event, Castara Beachfront, 7pm

September 2 – Fish fry-day lunch, Buccoo Integrated Facility, noon

September 2 – Fish fry-day lime, Buccoo Integrated Facility, 6pm

September 3 – Red, White and Black Walkathon and breakfast, Dwight Yorke Stadium, 5.30am

September 3 – Tree planting, Louis D’Or Propagation Centre, 10am

September 10 – Bago Jam Mega Concert and launch of Tobago carnival, Shaw Park Complex carpark, 6pm

September 23 – Student parade, Gardenside Street

September 24 – Republic Day march, Roxborough, 9am

September 24 – Powerboat regatta, Roxborough

September 24 – Republic Day cultural show, Cyd Gray Sporting Complex, 6pm

September 24 – Fireworks display, Cyd Gray Sporting Complex, 8pm

The lights at both the Shaw Park Cultural Complex and the Buccoo boardwalk will remain on until September 3.