Dennis: Autonomy won’t fix all Tobago’s problems

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PNM Tobago Council leader Ancil Dennis –

PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis said Tobagonians must not believe autonomy will be a panacea for all the ills plaguing the island.

He spoke on Thursday at a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Scarborough.

It came on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement, during the funeral of former chief secretary Hochoy Charles last Thursday, that the Tobago Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill, currently before a parliamentary joint select committee, will soon return to the Parliament.

Dennis outlined a slew of issues he said were affecting Tobago.

“Salaries are being paid late, the island’s economy is stagnant, the construction sector has ground to a halt – the average community in Tobago is feeling the pain,” he said.

“People are saying that business has dropped by 40 per cent, some are saying by 50 per cent. Bar owners are telling me that. Supermarket owners are saying that Tobago was better off economically even during the (covid19) pandemic.”

He said the notion being perpetuated is that autonomy will solve Tobago’s problems.

“Autonomy will not be a fixer for poor leadership. Autonomy will not fix dishonesty in high office, autonomy will not fix corruption, autonomy will not fix mismanagement.

“As a matter of fact, it is my belief that autonomy for this crop of politicians leading Tobago at this time will simply mean more power and authority to victimise and persecute hapless Tobagonians. I am saying we have to watch out for that.”

Dennis said the PNM Tobago Council has been supporting moves towards autonomy for more than a decade and will continue to do so.

“We support the current bills in the Parliament. Of course we expect the parliamentarians will debate it. We expect that during the process of the committee stage that people will express their views; there will be negotiation back and forth across the table. We expect that they will go through the bill clause by clause, and perhaps some changes will be made.”

He added, “As long as the bill represents more for Tobago; as long as the final law that is passed will give us the opportunity to make laws for the areas of responsibility that we have now in addition to some others; as long as it will guarantee additional resources for Tobago as part of the national budget; as long as it will define Tobago as the people of Tobago want it to be defined, it is my belief that the majority of right-thinking people will understand what is reasonable, especially if we continue to operate within the arrangement of a unitary state.”

Dennis said the PNM will not hold any further consultations on autonomy.

“We have had consultations for years. We supported the process. The bills are now before the Parliament and the parliamentarians must now do their work.

“I can speak for all the (PNM) parliamentarians in the Parliament, (and) as a deputy political leader of the PNM, that those bills will receive the support of the PNM members in the Upper House and the Lower House. Those votes are guaranteed in support of the bill.

“But all of us are aware that it requires the support of the United National Congress.”

PNM senator Laurence Hislop and THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris also addressed the briefing.