Tracy tells supporters: Autonomy will be our first priority

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine

PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine says greater autonomy for Tobago will be the party’s first priority if it wins the December 6 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.

“We, the people of Tobago, will have the authority, legislatively, financially and otherwise, to do the things that we say that we want to do,” she told supporters on Tuesday, while delivering the feature address at a political meeting in Roxborough.

Davidson-Celestine said the island lost a golden opportunity to secure greater autonomy when the House of Representatives debated a joint select committee report on the Tobago Island Administration and Tobago Self-Government Bills on June 28 and 29.

The debate reached the committee stage, but no vote was taken as there were no opposition MPs in the House. This was because the UNC MPs, led by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, walked out of the Parliament chamber after the Prime Minister was allowed an additional 60 minutes to wind up the debate on the government motion. The bills, which require a three-fifths majority for passage, are currently at a standstill.

Davidson-Celestine accused the UNC of hampering the process.

“It is not because we had a lack of PNM representation in the Parliament. It was not because we have had lack of PNM representation in Tobago.

“It is because the people on the other side had their own personal agendas, which they have put over the Tobago agenda. That is why we are saying to you that it has to be people before politics going forward.”

Alleging the PDP is “in cahoots” with the UNC, Davidson-Celestine recalled the PDP also did not support the bills.

“Watson (Duke, PDP leader) wasn’t so sure what he wanted. At first, he thought it was independence, but more recently I heard that it’s secession. Farley (Augustine) wants to be chief secretary without going through the normal process, which is one where the political leaders become either prime minister, as in the case in Trinidad, or in the case of Tobago, they will become Chief Secretary.”

She added, “Farley is not even so sure of what Watson said to him – that he will become Chief Secretary if they win – so he decides that he will not support the Tobago autonomy bill, because he is not so sure that the bill, in its current state, would give him that kind of prominence that Watson say that he will get. If you have been following the utterances and the rants of the PDP leader, you will know that that basket cannot hold any water.”

Davidson-Celestine urged Tobagonians to compare the philosophies of the PNM and PDP.

“What you get from the other side is bacchanal and kangkatang and chaos. but with us you have a lifetime of predictability, stability and a lifetime of increasing your standard of living.

“Because of that bacchanal and them working with the UNC, Tobago has lost out. I felt it in my heart, I felt it in my bones, because come October 2021, we would have been able to receive $1.2 billion (in the national budget) more for our development and recurrent infrastructure here on this island.”

Davidson-Celestine said that money could have been used to create employment, develop agricultural access roads and enhance the island’s road infrastructure.

She assured greater autonomy will become a reality in Tobago.

“Right now in the Parliament we have a stalemate, but I want to tell you that with the collaboration of the PNM-led Government, we are going to advocate, we are going to make noise, we are going to march if we have to, so that we get that autonomy for the people of Tobago.”

She told supporters the party will not make any empty promises during the campaign.

“The promises that we make to you will be backed by a solid plan of action that will come with the required finances to implement. Whatever we tell you on this platform and on this hustings, we know how we are going to finance it going forward.”