PM: Parliament will vote on Tobago bills this year

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – File photo

THE Prime Minister said the Parliament will be called upon this year to vote on two bills designed to give Tobago greater internal self-government.

Dr Rowley made this announcement at the funeral service for former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Hochoy Charles at the Shaw Park Complex in Tobago on Thursday. The congregation included President Christine Kangaloo, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and UNC deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal.

Charles, 77, died on December 31, 2023.

Rowley said the Tobago Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill are still before a parliamentary joint select committee.

The bills 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.

The Opposition walked out of the House after Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George granted Rowley an extension of speaking time during the debate of the bill. The Opposition and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) have claimed the autonomy bill does not represent the wishes of Tobagonians.

Augustine, a former PDP member, subsequently left that party to form the Tobago People’s Party.

In April 2022, Charles called for Tobago self government to be put back on the front burner.

Rowley promised that this year, the bills would be brought back to Parliament and put to a vote.

While he said he wished it was his power to grant greater self-government to Tobago, Rowley said the only pathway to achieve this was through the Parliament.

He told the congregation that he had known Charles for 43 years.

Rowley said the glue which held them together was mutual respect for each other as individuals despite their many political differences.