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Motions

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REQUEST FOR THE THA AND OTHER RELATED ENTITIES TO TAKE AUTHORITY OVER THE MANAGEMENT OF TOBAGO ENVIRONMENT AND TO ESTABLISH INSTITUTIONS, FRAMEWORKS AND MECHANISMS FOR PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION OF TOBAGO’S ENVIRONMENT

DIVISION

The House divided:

Ayes: 12    Abstained: 2


AYES

Augustine, Hon. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Morrison, Ms. M.

Taitt, N.

Burris, Hon. T.

Williams-Orr, Councillor C.

Craig, S.

Clarke, W.

Sampson, J.

Pollard, Hon. I.

Kerr, Councillor O.


ABSTAINED: 2

Daniel-Benoit, Councillor P.

Morris, K.

Amended Motion carried.

Division.

DIVISION

The House divided: Ayes: 12           Abstained: 2


Augustine, Hon. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Morrison, MS. M.

Abstained: 2

Taitt, N.

Burris, Hon. T.

Williams-Orr,   Councillor C.

Craig, S.

Clarke, W.

Sampson, J.

Pollard, Hon. I.

Kerr, Councillor O.

ABSTENTION: 2

Daniel-Benoit,   Councillor P.

Morris, K.

The third amendment is   carried.

Amended Motion put and agreed to.

Members, the third amendment to the

Motion is to add or insert the fifth recital;

“BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago immediately proceed to establish the institutions, frameworks and mechanisms   necessary for the effective and successful assumption and implementation of all matters concerning the management of Tobago’s environment.”

Question put and agreed to.


DIVISION


The House divided: AYES: 12     ABSTAINED: 2

AYES

Augustine, Hon. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Morrison, Ms. M.

Taitt, N.

Burris, Hon. T.

AYES: 12

ABSTAINED: 2

Williams-Orr, Councillor C


Craig, S.

Clarke, W.

Sampson, J.

Pollard, Hon. I.

Kerr, Councillor O.

ABSTENTIONS: 2

Daniel-Benoit, Councillor P.

Morris. K.

The second amendment is carried.


The first amendment is carried.

The second amendment is to put in the Sixth recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago take  full Request for the THA and Other Related Entities responsibility and authority for the management of all matters concerning Tobago’s environment be left out of the question.”

Question put and agreed to.


Division.

DIVISION

The House divided:

Ayes: 12          Abstained: 2

AYES

Augustine, Hon. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Morrison, Ms. M.

Taitt, N.

Burris, Hon. T.

Request for the THA and Other Related Entities


Williams-Orr,   Councillor C.

Craig, S.

Clarke, W.

Sampson, J.

Pollard, Hon. I.

Kerr, Councillor O.


ABSTENTIONS

Daniel-Benoit, Councillor P.

Morris, K.

Honourable Members, I will put the question on the proposed amendment Motion to the House in the order as it was proposed.

The amendment to the Motion put is that:

These words be there inserted after the fifth recital stating:

“AND WHEREAS once such Division is the Division of Food Request for the THA and Other Related Entities

Security Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable

Development.”

Question put and   agreed to.

4.45 P.M

     They did not want to define Tobago at all in the Bill. No waters for Tobago and telling Tobagonians to accept that as it is, so we will get some more money when they could have already given us the six point nine percent (6.9%) that we are asking for.

     Finally, this talk about elections. Really and truly, they want elections, when all Tobagonians want is autonomy They want elections because they feel they have an opportunity, but I understand where it is coming from. You see, when it looked as if we were not organized, as if we were wounded by a mad man, as if things will not stand up, they were all good and polite, but when they realized that their fake profiles on Facebook do not have enough traction on the ground and they were still seeing hundreds coming out to our meetings, and we were organizing and getting a name and so on, all of a sudden, they are pressing the panic button.

     Request for the THA and Other Related Entities Well, the Tobago House of Assembly Act does not even empower me to call

an election, but I know the Constitution empowers the Prime Minister to call an election for the House of Representatives. He can call it if he wants, and we could have a litmus test in Tobago as to who enjoys the support of Tobago.

[Desk thumping]

   With that, Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to ask this House to approve by way of vote, the Motion as amended by me earlier.

Thank you. [Desk thumping]



Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. So yes, I am happy that they, like us, find him to be an honourable man, so I am very happy that they have come to this conclusion too.

      The Member opposite raised a point that you know perhaps there is something nefarious in this - we want to give big money people, our financers, sensitive environmental areas to take over, to do projects. Well, I do not know anything about that. He raised the issue of a construction of some hotel resort at Cove. Now, this is the first time I am knowing about a hotel resort at Cove. In fact, the furthest I have reached in Cove, in recent times, is by the Canoe Bay Resort, I went there during camp, and the more recent times than that, the furthest I arrived at, is by the Cove Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago (E-IDCOT) Office, of which I have some remit. So this is something worth investigating.

     If the Minority Leader had listened to me, he would have heard me talk about a situation, where I am receiving on the back-end from the EMA, for my thoughts, for my consultation, about overwater bungalows in Pigeon Point, and I am asking, how did it even reached there? How it did even reach there? The fact that it reached there, it shows that there are gaps when it comes to the THA executing its duties with the environment. How has it reached? How is a hotel resort being built and the THA is unaware of it?

The photo he showed is something projecting out into the sea. I would have to go and look at it. If time permits, I will drive down there this evening to see what is happening. Certainly, one of the reasons for this Motion, is for us to remedy situations like that. It should never happen.

     The Minority Leader sought to give several examples, and granted, the examples were all mismatched. You know, sometimes, attempting to compare pommecythere with American apple - one might be called apple in French creole, but it does not share the same characteristics as the other apple - two (2) different types of apples.

    I want to raise some examples, of instances where there is a THA policy for Tobago that it is different from a Central Government Policy for Trinidad. In those instances, you will find that there exists no law that says this is what you must do. In the absence of a law, which is the tool to execute policy, then you may find at times, some variance in policies for both islands. I will give you an example.

    He spoke about the issue with COVID-19. I can recall when the Prime Minister came and said that they warned public servants that if they were not vaccinated they will not be allowed to go to work. Well, I quoted the Constitution; the same Constitution that he spoke about that defines the public service as being in service to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and in service to the Government of Tobago or to the Tobago House of Assembly. My response was, “You could do that in Trinidad if you want, but we will decide if that will be the policy that will happen in Tobago.” I could so do. I could have done that then. Eventually, we heard nothing about that policy again, it withered away.

      Another example - if we have inclement weather, if we listen to the Minority, we would be waiting on the Minister of Education in Trinidad to decide if we should close schools or not. As a matter of fact, if you listen to him and the Minister of Education says, “Look, we are not closing schools”, we should probably say the same. When we have inclement weather, we are not waiting on anybody anywhere to decide, so much so, that the last time our children were safely at home and their children were caught out in the road and had to turn back. They gave the announcement late.

     Another example of the THA managing Tobago’s business for Tobagonians - the URP and CEPEP, classic example - the Minister of Finance could say what he wants. I remember when we decided to increase the salary to URP and CEPEP, a worker in the Ministry of Finance, sent to ask through an Administrator, who authorized us to do that? My response to the Administrator to carry back to her was, “Mind your business”. [Desk thumping] No Ministry of Finance in Trinidad could tell this Assembly not to give our people a living wage. That is Tobago's business. So it is evident that when it comes to matters under the Fifth Schedule, it is intended that THA policy be considered in their execution. That’s the intent of the law.

     Secretary James rightfully pointed out that what we have inherited is a THA that has not lived up to the full responsibility as established in Act 40 of 1996. So they gave us a thing. We know it is inadequate, but we are not fully utilizing all of what is there for us. I mean, he mentioned the financial rules and all of those things that we are supposed to establish. One of the things he had mentioned is Inland Revenue where the Act actually says that the THA is supposed to sit down with Inland Revenue and devise a mechanism through which all businesses in Tobago pay their taxes in Tobago.

     I have to tell you something: Before they took office in 2001, Tobago was at a point where a form was being designed so that businesses would have been forced to disaggregate their taxes paid, and all those activities would have been remitted to Tobago. Do you know what happened after twenty-one (21) years? They threw it out the window, and then the Prime Minister falsely came and declared, that all we could earn in taxes, is really two hundred to two hundred and fifty million dollars ($200m-$250m), not considering the fact that most if not all of the multinationals, all of the large companies in Tobago, do not remit their taxes in Tobago.

     You see, what they really hope to happen, is that we will have a THA that is too weak, too soft, too indecisive and unwilling to stand up and take action where Tobago is concerned. I will be honest with you. I am no man of war, I love love more than anything else. I listed out several examples of disrespect, and I am sure that nobody in the media heard me shout and parrot those levels of disrespect. If was somebody else here, they would have been in the media about it cussing and quarrelling. I have kept it quiet, so much so, that I have some good friends who want to know if they obeah me. Why I am so quiet? Maybe they bought me out. All kinds of talk they start to give. This is not about war, but it is about ensuring that Tobago gets what Tobago deserves. It ensures that even if we do not get the Autonomy Bill now, what we have, will be utilized it to the fullest extent of the law. That is what this is about.

      Allow me before I wrap up, to talk about the Autonomy Bill that they brought. You see, they want to wave it and dangle it and say, “Take that Bill”, but that Bill erodes even some of the responsibilities we have in Act 40 of 1996.





Chief Secretary, have a seat please.

If nobody else wants to hear what is going on, I would like to hear.

Please be guided by Standing Order 44.

Chief Secretary, continue.


4.35 P.M

Even if we disagree, even if we do not agree with his advice, I am grateful that we have never seen an honourable son of the soil in that way. So I am happy they now find favour in him. [Desk thumping] [Interruption

Be that as it may, I find it convenient that in the House today, that Vanus, the vagrant, became the honourable Vanus. They did not know him all the time. The same people who called him vagrant, the same people who denigrated him, is today finding honour in him. Madam Presiding Officer, I am happy that we on this side never saw him in those terms. [Desk thumping]

Madam Presiding   Officer, both cases were spoken about in the   House today. Reforestation was spoken about and they also spoke about the continuing case that we have where Milshirv is...

The matter which the Chief Secretary referred to is with respect to reforestation and not Milshirv.


Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. I wish to start by saying thank you to my Colleagues who presented on this Motion, and who brought quite a bit of elucidation with regard to Tobago’s autonomy and matters relevant to our natural environment.

     Madam Presiding Officer, after listening to the Minority Leader, it became very evident that a handler in Trinidad wrote a speech and probably emailed it up, and then they just read it, and it was echoed by the Councillor. Notwithstanding all that I said, and all of the education given at the opening to the Minority Leader, he missed all of it because he was fixated on reading his speech.

     I was a teacher for seven (7) years and a basic principle in teaching is that repetition deepens the impression. Sometimes, for those who are slow, you have to repeat it over and over again until they get it, so I will repeat it. There is a dancehall song about those at the back of the class. Right now, I will repeat it for those who fit into the category that that song describes. I said it before, that while the THA is empowered to create policies, once there is a law in Trinidad, meaning from the Central Government that impacts on one of the items in the Fifth Schedule, the THA is duty bound to execute that law. The argument today is not about trying to cut away, throw away any EMA Act or any piece of legislation. It is about saying that the THA must perform its duties in accordance with the law.

Allow me to reiterate by reading section 27. The Minority Leader talked about all the other aspects except section 27, which says:


“Where services fall within the responsibility of the Assembly pursuant to section 25 (1), or where the Assembly acts as an agent of the Government, statutory authority or state enterprise pursuant to section 26 (2), the services shall be administered by the Assembly.”

     

     There is no serious arithmetic That is simple language. In other words, the law is saying once it is a matter under the Fifth Schedule, whether they made a law about whether we created a policy on it, it shall be executed by the THA.


In fact, are we aware that it is an illegality to have Central Government agencies in Tobago really and truly carrying out willy-nilly, the Fifth Scheduled items without the THA there, based on what is written here?

     I recognize that the Minority Leader struggled with the definition of what a Government is. That simple noun - and I am grateful to the Member for Scarborough/Calder Hall, who defined that. Allow me to define what the word, “shall” when written in law, means. The word, “shall” when written in law is an imperative command usually indicating that certain actions are mandatory and not permissive. This contrasts with the word, “may”, which is generally used to indicate a permissive provision, ordinarily implying some degree of discretion. There is no discretion when it comes to section 27 of the Act.

     Having cleared that up, the Member opposite spent time talking about an incomplete case, granted this is a case that we still have to argue before the Privy Council. I am reliably advised that the THA simply made the wrong arguments in the   previous cases. They made the wrong arguments because in this case, they were   not so concerned about Tobago’s autonomy; they were concerned about a   right to give away Tobago’s money to Milshirv, one of their financiers in   Trinidad. [Desk thumping] That is what happened there.

How interesting that   today in the House...




Madam Presiding Officer, I beg to move that we take the time and go through, and have lunch afterwards as per Standing Order 19(1) Question put and agreed to.

Mr. James, baptism by fire.

That was actually the function of the Leader of Assembly   Business.

PROCEDURAL MOTION

Madam Presiding Officer, I beg to move a Motion that we keep the Sitting until the business of the House is concluded.

Chief Secretary, Augustine. However, before you proceed, it is now one minute to 4.30 p.m., and according to Standing Order 16 (2), we are to break for tea. Can I have a decision on how we are going to proceed please?

4.25 P.M

For those who wish   to remain blind on the other side and for those who have simply lost their   way, I say this: we will not yield. [Desk thumping] We will not bend. [Desk   thumping] We will not bow our heads in shame. [Desk thumping] You   elected us to fight for you, so we will fight. [Desk thumping] We will   fight for every inch and every mile, every single mile of an autonomy long   dreamt of.

An old Chinese proverb states:

“That a journey of   one thousand (1000) miles begins with a single step.”

We will take our steps together one by one, knowing that   every step we make, no matter how painful it is, takes us a step closer to   the true victory: autonomy for our people; autonomy for our Tobago people.   That is the ultimate legacy.

Madam   Presiding Officer, I thank you. [Desk thumping]

4.15 P.M

According to statistics, these islands lose billions of   dollars every year to the degradation of their natural resources.   Deforestation alone results in a loss of around five point two billion   dollars ($5.2b) annually, while overfishing and pollution have caused a   decline in fish stocks and damage to coral reefs, costing island economies   around four point three billion dollars ($4.3b) and three point nine billion   dollars ($3.9b) per year respectively.

     Climate change, including rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather   events, is projected to cause even greater economic losses in the future. These statistics highlight the urgent need for sustainable practices and policies to protect the natural resources of Small Island Developing States such as ours, and ensure our economic viability. This is why there is an urgent need for this Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to take up all its responsibilities under the Fifth Schedule. This is to ensure, that our approaches are integrated and proactive; our interventions are successful; and our systems and institutions are robust and accountable to the people of Tobago.

       Madam Presiding Officer, the Environment as aforementioned, is critical to our economic development. Natural resources such as air, water, minerals and land, are essential inputs for economic activities. The exploitation of these resources helped to create economic opportunity, increase production and generate income.

     For instance, our tourism industry relies heavily on our natural environment, such as beaches, coral reefs, forests, rivers and waterfalls to attract tourists. Even more, our ecotourism and our wellness tourism are key pillars of our product offerings. It is the exploitation of these resources that generates income for many local communities, creates job opportunities and stimulates economic growth.

     The environment also plays a critical role in social development. The natural environment provides food, water and shelter for humans and other living creatures, and environmental degradation can lead to an increase in poverty, malnutrition and diseases. In contrast, a healthy environment fosters the growth of a fit and productive population.

     Also important to consider, Madam Presiding Officer, is that the

environment is also a vital aspect of our cultural development. Our natural environment intricately shapes the culture and identities of our communities.What would Buccoo be without its reef? What would Kiligwyn be without its mangroves, or Argyle, Goodwood and Castara without their waterfalls? Or Tobago without its Main Ridge forest reserve? Indigenous communitiesthroughout the world have unique cultural and religious practices and beliefs  that are closely tied to their environment, and our island is no different. The destruction of the environment can lead to a loss of cultural heritage, loss of identity, and loss of the well-being of the communities in which they exist, which would have negative implications for us all.

     Madam Presiding Officer, our environment is a complexed system that requires specialized knowledge and expertise to be managed effectively. An institution with experts (I am now answering the question that the Minority Councillor raised) in various fields such as ecology, environmental law, social sciences and economics is crucial. Further, there is the need to have a mixture of local Tobagonians and international experts who can pool their knowledge, to craft the best strategies for effective management. Local, regional and international partnerships can be pursued to build capacity. We must be free to pursue and cement these collaborations on our turfs. Such an institution can help to coordinate and integrate environmental policies and programmes across different Divisions and sectors, and will also aid in aligning policies and programmes towards achieving sustainable development at the tactical and operational levels, guided by the overall strategic mandates of the relevant line Division.

      A cross-functional approach is therefore required to ensure success, as it affects various sectors such as:

  • Agriculture;

  • Energy;

  • Tourism; and

  • Transportation.


Critical to our success, Madam Presiding Officer, is the need to firmly establish Tobago Centric Environmental Regulations and Standards developed by us, for us, taking into account... [Desk thumping] (Let me repeat. We need to firmly establish Tobago Centric Environmental Regulations and Standards. We live here. We know what is best for here).

[Desk thumping] ... all aspects of our unique and diverse environment.

      It is simply not enough to leave it up to an EMA in Trinidad, with one (1) Tobago representative on their Board, who is not chosen by this local Administration, [Applause] begging them, asking them, pleading with them, to seek to develop policy on how we should manage our reef systems and our Main Ridge. It is not enough to depend on a solitary office in one corner of the island, that is woolly understaffed and ill-equipped to begin to treat with our myriad opportunities and challenges. To the average person in Tobago, their only reference point for the EMA, is that it is the place you usually go to apply for a fete license, noise variation, and to report the neighbour when, they are playing the hard pound - you call the EMA - nothing else. The responsibility of any agency, tasked with managing our environment must be far more than that. They must be present and accountable to the people of Tobago, through the institutions installed to represent their interest. They must be sensitive to our nuances and responsive to our needs.

     Madam Presiding Officer, environmental regulations and standards are essential to protect our environment and human health. Trust that we are aware that enforcement is always an issue, especially where the lines of jurisdiction are blurred, and where there is jockeying for physical and political territory. This Administration is adamant, that the only way forward, is to assume all responsibilities for the sustainable management, preservation and protection of our environment, as one of the steps on our journey towards self-actualization as a people. Promotion, public awareness, and participation in environmental management is key. We cannot do this by ourselves. Messages has to be tailored to suit our local population.

     Our culture plays a significant role in how we choose to develop and transmit these messages to our various publics. Indigenous art forms such as our speech band and our own Tobago dialect, have to be used to effectively get these messages across. Tobagonians must become fierce stewards of our environment, and seek to defend the sovereignty of all such institutions, created to protect same. These institutions must be run by the THA, in collaboration with our local environmental stakeholders, and, there must be a clear mandate, with the aim to educate the public on environmental issues, to create platforms for real time feedback, and to involve persons at all levels from our communities in decision making processes. All of these actions above, will contribute to the socio-economic development of our Tobago society. Such actions will help us improve the economic, social and cultural well-being of our people. Benefits include:


  • The creation of job   opportunities;

  • Economic growth; and

  • Improvement of living   standards.


    Again, Madam Presiding Officer, the environment is a vital aspect of our socio-economic development, and it plays a significant role in shaping our economy, society and culture. That is why I stand here today in strong support of the spirit and the letter of this Motion. [Desk thumping]

     So, Madam Presiding Officer, I do not have much to say. My presentation has been very succinct. I want us as I wrap up, as I close, to understand that it is essential for us to understand the many forces at play here. The legacy is not just a matter of what we do, but also what we do not do. It is about how we act and how we react. It is about how we behave, and sometimes if it is called for, how we misbehave. [Desk thumping]

     This Administration has inherited an eroded Tobago House of Assembly. This is the current legacy. A Tobago House of Assembly left to rot under the ineffective, insular, impotent, indecisive leadership of the few [Desk thumping] who clearly did not understand the implications of their actions or rather inaction. Let me repeat in case you closed the door and you did not hear what I said. This Tobago House of Assembly was left to rot; an institution falling apart, because of the people on the other side; under the ineffective, insular, impotent, indecisive leadership of a few, who clearly did not understand the assignment.

     Although the Fifth Schedule clearly outlines our areas of   responsibility, the inertia of the last twenty-one (21) years, has allowed   those who wish to be our masters free reign, to disregard, disrespect,   dismantle and almost destroy this very institution for which our forbearersfought so hard to create. [Desk thumping] We cannot and we will no longer stand for this. [Desk thumping]

     Today, we battle against a Central Government   Administration that intends to flex its perceived colonial powers over an   island that is far too familiar, with a history of subjugation, both internal and external, by people who look like us, who claimed to be of us and for us.



 [Desk thumping] Thank you,

Madam Presiding Officer, for allowing me the privilege of joining this critical debate.

     I stand here humbled and thankful for the opportunity to serve as Councillor with responsibility for Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation, and may I add, honorary Assemblyman representing the combined districts of the Little Tobago Island, St. Giles Island and Goat Island. [Desk thumping]

    Before I begin my presentation, I would like to place on record, that I want to correct the Minority Leader for some comments that he made at the beginning of his contribution, attempting to ascribe less than honourable, intentions on our Colleague who is absent from this House today, and in whose name this Motion appears, that her absence from this House was wilful.

    I want the Minority Leader to know that regardless of what he may think, and regardless of what he may hear, or regardless of what he may feel, this side of this House would never be divided. [Desk thumping] My Colleagues on this side, the honourable Chief Secretary and the Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development have taken great pains to explain the legal underpinnings of this Motion, so my presentation will focus on why this Motion is of importance to the average man. We are going to put some meat to the Motion at this time.

     Many times, during the course of my tenure, the lines between the responsibilities of the Division of Tourism and the Department of the Environment, appear to the public to be blurred. Many persons have approached the Division thinking that we are responsible for beaches, when in fact, we are responsible for the beach facilities that we built. The Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development is responsible for all beaches on the island. Recent unsavoury events at the Buccoo Reef were reported to us with many thinking that it was our responsibility to spring into action, to treat with boat operators and other activities that take place in that space, when in fact, it is our counterparts at Fisheries who have jurisdiction in our waters, along with the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. Without question, these incidents and many others, have underscored the need for the Tobago House of Assembly to clearly establish and to clearly articulate its mandate for the management and the protection of the environment through the relevant line Division, and such an action will clear up any confusion surrounding who is responsible for what; what rights, powers and authority such an entity will possess.

      Madam Presiding Officer, our environment is a vital aspect of our human well-being and sustainable development. No matter how far we may roam, Tobago will always be our home. However, human activities such as deforestation, pollution, overfishing and the deleterious effects of climate change, have led to environmental degradation, negatively affecting our island’s economy, society and culture. Small developing islands like Tobago, are particularly vulnerable to the economic loss caused by deforestation, pollution, overfishing and climate change.


Councillor Tashia Burris.

4.05 P.M

We are reiterating that whatever you are doing, do it in the best interest, and in the absence of you advising or sharing with us the intent of this Motion, we are left to interpret it as meaning that this Motion is seeking to replace the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

     Madam Presiding Officer, I wondered what this Motion is seeking to do that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), in its current confines, within the ambits of the law is unable to do. As far as my information goes, there may be additional Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between the Tobago House of Assembly and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). From the information that I have received, consistent with section 26 (2) of the THA Act 40 of 1996, an MOU between the THA and the EMA have been signed and this occurred in May 2019. It is required to be reviewed every three (3) years. It may be instructive, that based on the existing MOU, the Administration may want to review the MOU, and if there are things in there that they are seeking to enhance or to improve - do that.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I am a bit concerned and troubled because we seem to be picking a fight with the Central Government. We are wondering and asking, if there is not a better way to strike a balance between asserting ourselves and collaborating for our own benefit. The Member and the Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development would have indicated that the THA is a part of the governance structure of our twin-island Republic, and there are certain things that need and require collaboration between the THA and the Central Government. We are of the firm belief that collaboration is necessary for the mutual benefit, and also for the future development of our island, Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to conclude, because in the absence of information - and I really do not wish to reiterate some of the comments of the Minority Leader because I think it was clear. I think it was necessary that we regurgitate that Order and decision of Justice Kangaloo. Again, in principle, the Minority agrees that the Assembly should have greater responsibilities. Yes, the Chief Secretary spoke about its authorities and having autonomy, and discussing the autonomy issue, but to date, we have not seen any real consultation; [Desk thumping] we have not seen any real discussion as it relates to furthering the autonomy discussion and the autonomy bill.

    If it is, Madam Presiding Officer, that the Executive wishes to bring back that issue, then by all means speak to the people; gather from the people; consult and find out exactly where are we to go next in relation to autonomy. As it relates to this particular Motion, again in principle, we agree that there is a need for greater responsibilities, not only for the environment, but for other areas as set out in the Fifth Schedule. What we are saying, is that whatever you are doing, it must be (and particularly in relation to this Motion; the Environmental Management Authority on the island) within the confines of the existing legislation, keeping in mind the Constitution, Act 40 of 1996 and again, the Constitution is the supreme law of our twin-island

Republic - Act 40 of 1996, as well as the EMA Act No. 3 of 2000.

Madam Presiding Officer, again, I wish to thank you for the opportunity to contribute, and I urge the Administration to please be guided. [Desk thumping]




3.55 P.M

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to contribute to this Motion.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I sat and I listened, and the question was asked, but I have not heard the response to the question. That is: What are we really seeking to do with this Motion today? So, the Motion was amended, and we are asking for institutions and frameworks and mechanisms. Madam Presiding Officer, even in the drafting of the Motion, it was not clear what the Executive Council intends to do. Even while the Motion was piloted and Members spoke on the Motion, I did not get what the institutions that they want to implement are. I did not get what the frameworks that they wish to implement are. I also did not get what the mechanisms that they are calling to be implemented are. This information will be necessary so that we can really contribute meaningfully to the debate.

     In the absence of information, we are left to interpret for ourselves what the intent of the Motion is. For us, the Motion appears as if it wants to remove the authority of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) in Tobago. Those on the other side have not said what the mechanisms are; what the frameworks are; what the institutions are, that they wish to set up - and they are existing institutions.

    What the Minority Leader would have indicated, is in principle. We agree that section 25 gives the Tobago House of Assembly authority for Environmental Management in Tobago. However, we are saying that whatever you want to do, it must be within the ambits of the law. [Desk thumping] That is all we are saying, Madam Presiding Officer. In the absence of providing us with the information about what you want to do,it is left for us to interpret what you want to do. Our interpretation is, that you want to replace the Environmental Management Authority.

 Madam Presiding Officer, the Member for Scarborough/Mt. Grace and the Secretary of Infrastructure, would have attempted to give a definition for what ‘without prejudice’ means. Madam Presiding Officer, I feel the need to reiterate the decision and the ruling of Justice Kangaloo in the matter in relation to the Reaforestation and Watershed Programme between the Tobago House of Assembly, which at that time was the Plaintiff and the Attorney General.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the decision of Justice Kangaloo states:


“The Court has therefore perused the totality of the THA Act which has been contended by both parties ...

and the parties to the matter were the Tobago House of Assembly and the Attorney General.


but more so on the part of the Defendant...

which at the time was the Attorney General,

...and considers the outcome of such an exercise in that the language of section 25 (1) of the THA Act is in all of the circumstances plain and unambiguous.”


    Madam Presiding Officer, I want us to take note that at the time the THA Administration was a PNM Administration and the Attorney General was a UNC Administration. As I continue, No. 86 of Justice Kangaloo’s decision says that:

“The court also notes the Fifth Schedule responsibilities have national impact.”


They quoted some examples:

  • “Town and Country Planning;

  • Infrastructure, including air and sea transportation;

  • Wharves and airports and public utilities;

  • Telecommunications;

  • Health Services; and

  • The Environment”


“Tobago therefore cannot get authority where these responsibilities are concerned. To permit this would certainly lead to confusion and potential disaster in the management and direction of national affairs.”

This is the decision of the Judge that I am reading.

Section 88 says:

“The Court has accordingly asked itself the question, are any powers given to the THA under the THA Act No. 40 of 1996, to the exclusion of the general powers given to the Cabinet?”

    

No. 89 of the decision continues:


“The Court finds the answer to this on a plain reading of section 25 (1) of the THA Act, when the reading of the THA Act as a whole is “No”.

     Madam Presiding Officer, these are not the words of the Minority Leader; these are not my words. These are the words of the learned Judge in the matter.

     Madam Presiding Officer, to me that is clear. So, if all that we would have just read based on the decision of the Judge - it has been tried, it has been tested, and an interpretation has been given, and I think it is easy to understand what that interpretation is.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I want to continue in terms of that matter in relation to the judgment. We continue to quote section 25 (1) and draw our own interpretations. Again, I want to guide the Executive Council to the decision and the judgment.

    The Minority would have brought this Order, when we would have debated the Town and Country Planning Motion. It appears, Madam Presiding Officer, that this Administration still did not go back; did not do its homework; did not do its due diligence, to go and review the decision and the Order. We have no problem; we have no issue with what you want to do. All we are saying is, what you are attempting to do - first share with us exactly what you want to do. You have not clearly stated what your intention with the Motion is. We are also saying that what you intend to do, let it be within the ambits of the law.

So, Madam Presiding Officer, I go on now to quote the Order. The Order says, section 25 (1) (and I am reading) in its plain and ordinary meaning, means:

“That any responsibility given to the Tobago House of Assembly pursuant to section 25 (1) of the Act, must be subject to the overriding and overarching national policy directives of the Cabinet of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Order continues:

“Section 25 (1) gave the THA responsibility to implement policies that are consistent with that of the Government in instances where the Government already has a policy.”

It continues:

“Section 25 (1) of the Act does not give the THA responsibility to formulate and or implement policy in respect of matters set out in the Fifth Schedule of the Act which may frustrate or hamper the implementation of Government policy.”



Minority Councillor.


Before you start Minority Councillor, I have been hearing   terminologies that I am not appreciative of today within the house - the   “lackey” and the “Farley and friends”. I prefer to hear “honourable Members,”   and you are also guided by Standing Order 45(6) as we continue.


Continue Minority Councillor.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer; thank you Members. As I wind up, I want the people of Tobago to remember that in the long career, he boasted that he has been the longest serving Parliamentarian, maybe the oldest as well in the Parliament - not once has he piloted a Motion in support for Tobago - not once! This Representative for Diego Martin (West), will soon come again and would ask you for your support to put him back in office. The only thing he does with that support is take away your rights; use lackeys as the ones we have here today; tell you that the THA Act is nothing, and that they can come at anytime and do whatever they want, and he would want you to vote for him.

     I ask (and I am sure he will be listening, and it would be reported by The Minority) him to call the national elections; call the Parliamentary election, but I digress.

     The opportunity that we have today is to bring to the public the need for the THA/the Government of Tobago, to finally take the responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution, to take that responsibility unto itself and to begin to chart a new course for Tobago. That is the opportunity we have, and I stand in support, completely, of the Motion. I thank you. [Desk thumping] 

Member, you may continue.

EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: that the Hon. Member’s speaking time be extended by five (5) minutes. [Councillor M. Morrison].

Question put and agreed to.


Member your time is   up.

We did it for nineteen million dollars ($19m). That is the corruption that he is talking about. [Desk thumping]

Madam Presiding Officer, I want to talk about this without prejudice business in the Constitution, in the THA Act, Section 25 (1). I will quote the first part:

“Without prejudice to section 75 (1) of the Constitution...”

The Minority Leader is suggesting and quoting some judge that says it means subject to what happens in Trinidad. I do not know where that came from.

     I am advised that the term ‘without prejudice’ is a term used by lawyers to encourage open and free discussion in the settlement of disputes. This allows parties to be reassured that anything said or written that might otherwise prejudice their interest, cannot be used against them. This is a thought to encourage resolution out of court which in turn reduces cost; the same cost the Prime Minister talked about. He is setting the stage to go to court and saying that it is us setting the stage to go to court for everything we do, and try to blame us for it. The ‘Without prejudice’ statement allows for us to speak and communicate if a dispute arises; for us to settle it out of court. That is what it means. It does not mean “subject to”, as people are saying.

        In the THA Act, this out of court settlement is enshrined in something called the Dispute Resolution Commission. It surely does not mean (the Chief Secretary spoke about it in another way) that the Central Government can decide willy-nilly tomorrow, “Listen, I am coming and pave roads in Tobago”. It does not mean that the Central Government can say, “Listen, I am coming to build”. What do they want to do in Pigeon Point? They want to build a beach football field and try to override the policy where we have decided to build it in Black Rock? The people of Tobago should take note that the only politician (I heard a second one today - but previous to today) who quotes this section, “Without prejudice to section 75 (1)”, quotes it in an effort to arrogate powers of all the other clauses of the Act to the Central Government. The only politician that does that, is a Trinidadian born in Mason Hall. Do not worry; my children are Tobagonians born in Trinidad too. He has never once - not once in his years in the Parliament, not once...




Member, you have five (5) minutes.

Section 5.1- procurement procedures, according to the Auditor General, were not presented for audit examination, therefore the Auditor General was unable to verify whether proper procurement procedures were followed for the development programme projects.

     690 - Road Resurfacing Programme - twenty-eight million, two hundred and forty-seven thousand, two hundred and thirty-five dollars ($28,247,235). It was observed that two (2) road development projects were undertaken by the Division which were carried out by the same contractor. The projects located at Adventist Trace, Moriah, at a cost of five million, one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars ($5,135,000) and at Rabbit Lane, Moriah, the project sum was four million, eight hundred and thirty-six thousand, six hundred dollars ($4,836,600). In both projects the Division was charged for bituminous asphalt. A site visit was made on March 03, 2023 by the Auditors, and it was noted that the roads in question were not paved with asphalt but concrete. This is the corruption that this fellow is talking about.

[Desk thumping] They audited the whole year of 2022, and all they found to write about, were projects under the last Administration. [Desk thumping]

     When they come and talk about corruption - hide and run away from them, because there is a shamelessness in the politics these days that you cannot even understand. They know, Madam Presiding Officer, that they used this Executive Council as a procurement unit for four hundred million dollars ($400m). They know that and they came. They sent their auditors from Trinidad to check one year; our first year. They missed out five (5) years, and all they found under the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development were projects that they did. I wanted to also say that the Minority Leader keeps talking about projects in Scarborough. The information we have is that under the budgetary allocation estimates that they did for that road from Smithfield to Sangster’s Hill, because they did not have the piece from Sangster’s Hill to Dutch Fort, their budget was more than thirty million dollars ($30m).


3.45 P.M

Member continue.

Madam Presiding Officer, I introduced the letter because   the Prime Minister’s lackey quoted, claimed that we were the most corrupt   government in the history of Tobago. This is an audit that proves where the   corruption is, and that is the link.

Can you state the relevance?

Have a seat, Mr. James.

Yes, Minority Councillor.

Madam Presiding Officer, on point of order.

3.35 P.M

That policy is the policy that is already established, called the EMA Act. We are going to implement it because that is what the law says.

We are going to finally take the necessary actions to put the governance structure in place to manage the responsibilities afforded to us in Act 40 of 1996. A purposeful, safe reading of the Act makes the intentions of the Parliament quite clear. Section 25 (2) (and I only repeat this version of it because the Minority Leader clearly needs to hear it again), state, and I quote:

“For the better performance of its functions, the Assembly is hereby empowered to do all such acts and take all such steps as may be necessary or incidental to the exercise of its powers, or for the discharge of its duties.”

This theme, Madam Presiding Officer, is repeated at various points in the Act. For instance, Section 28 - the Assembly was expected to set up its own tendering mechanism similar to that of the Central   Tenders Board. That is all gone now.

    Section 52 - the Assembly was required to make its own financial rules (although there were financial rules in Trinidad) and do away with those financial rules from Trinidad.

     Since the Administration of Hochoy Charles, there has been no new addition to the financial rules - twenty something years - abandoned by the PNM under instructions from Port of Spain. So it is clear that the Assembly, beyond being responsible for policy formation and implementation, the Government of Tobago) is required and expected to build out the institutional and organizational framework appropriate and necessary to carry out its functions and responsibilities. The reason why we have had all these incursions into Tobago and into our responsibility, is because the PNM Administration past, did not see it fit to do this. This is where we are. This is why after so many years we are still at the same place along this continuum where we have been stuck since 1996.

Section 25 (3) states, and I will quote part:


“Where a statutory authority or a State enterprise provides services in Tobago...


The Chief Secretary quoted this at length.


...that authority or enterprise shall, in exercising its duties in relation to those services, act in accordance with the policies or programmes of the Assembly...”


This is what the law of Trinidad and Tobago says. This is what the Constitution says. So while this can only refer to matters of outside of the Fifth Schedule, it gives the Assembly cover in assuring that its policies and programmes will take precedence if there is a variance to policies of a state enterprise. That is what the law is suggesting - that if you had a Sixt.

     Schedule item and there was a variance, for example, we all know that the Ministry of National Security has abandoned its stations in Tobago. [Desk thumping] We all know that.

    We all know that the Division of Infrastructure has to go to the prisons every time to clean it up and to adjust it, and to repair it. We have firemen building over their station for themselves in town, till suddenly somebody come and say, the Administration according - to the report by the famous Tobagonian, “Is the Administration to fix it”. I do not know whose Administration she is speaking about. We know that since we have been in office, we had to fix the camp in Signal Hill. The Chief Secretary had to give money to the Fire Services; they had to fix things in the police station; they had to fix things in the prison. We had to fix things on the port for the coast guard, because they have abandoned their responsibilities.

      We have taken the   policy decision, that these servicemen and women are Tobagonians mostly and   we will take care of them. [Desk thumping] That is the policy that   allows us to give money to them and to provide services for them, so that   they can serve the people of Tobago with which we are also charged to serve.   We are not taking anybody responsibility in the Sixth Schedule. We are   ensuring that when they come, if they come, that we can participate as   required, where a Minister and a Secretary can speak; where the Prime   Minister and the Chief Secretary can speak, to ensure that we are on the same   page, because we are responsible for the people of Tobago, and these  servicemen are people in Tobago. That is the policy that we are talking about.

     Notwithstanding, the Act also provides for consultation between a Minister and a Secretary (I just said that) and between the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister. So if there is a problem with a THA policy, there is a mechanism in the law already to fix that problem, where the Prime Minister can call the Chief Secretary to a meeting or vice versa, and request a meeting as the case may be; where the Secretary can request a meeting with the Minister to clarify an issue, so that we are both on the same page. It does not take away the fact that in Tobago, under the Fifth Schedule, the THA, the Government of Tobago is responsible for policy formulation, making and bringing the policies together and for implementing it. That is what the Constitution says.

     The Minority Leader made a swipe about corruption and most   corrupt. Clearly he has been living under a bushel somewhere - I do not know. [Crosstalk] [Laughter] I do not know. You know I have a suspicious  mind.

     I heard that the Auditor General made a request to come to Tobago to audit, to skip out 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and audit 2022 when we took over, in order to see if they were going to find something that they could talk about; the management letter, consequent to that audit, for the Division of Infrastructure which the Minority Leader loves to talk about. It says under 5.1-1 want to quote it as exactly as I could. I am not as adept with the phone as the Chief Secretary. Procurement Procedures - and I quote section 5. 1 of that letter... [Interruption]

3.25 P.M

I wish to say at the outset, neither the concept of a unitary state, nor, and especially an indivisible unitary state, is entrenched in our laws and/or our legal system. It is an attitude that has taken root based on a fallacy emanating from Port of Spain designed to subjugate; to control; to create a dependency syndrome, while raping us of our resources. Our homeland Tobago and its people have always been recognized as distinct and unique by all the constitutional and legal arrangements, the union has operated under. Reference can be made to article 47 (2) of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution; the Ordering Council 1961; section 70 (2) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago 1962; section 70 (2) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago 1996, and section 43 (a) of the Tobago House of Assembly Act. These sections clearly recognize the distinct uniqueness of Tobago in the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago.

     Although the Parliament in 1996 debated a Motion to reaffirm its commitment to the unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago, the Motion was passed by a House dominated by Trinidadians, but it was   passed subject to section (1) of the Constitution that still does not   recognize the concept of a unitary state. This is important. In fact, it was   later the selfsame year that the Tobago House of Assembly Act was passed in   the Parliament.

     Madam Presiding Officer, part of the Act that deals with the functions of the Assembly, the primary function and responsibility of the Tobago House of Assembly as per section 25 (1), is the formulation and implementation of policy in respect of matters laid out in the Fifth Schedule, 25 (1).

     The Fifth Schedule specifies thirty-two (32) items including the environment at item 20. There is a legal duty according to the Act that falls to the executive of the Assembly and to the public service of the Tobago House of Assembly that is referenced in section (3) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

     I heard the Minority Leader spoke about the Constitution as if we were not speaking about the same document. He has even gone so far as to try to differentiate between a government and the THA. Clearly, he does not know of the Barbados House of Assembly (BHA) which is the House that they sit in. That is the Government of Barbados, and he continues to use these words as if to suggest that the THA is a little state agency, not realizing that in fact, we are the Government. That is why we on this side [Desk thumping] will continue to repeat that phrase so that the children coming up will understand the importance of the re-establishment of the Tobago House of Assembly into the governance structure of Trinidad and Tobago, as the Government of Tobago. That is important for those little ones coming up. I had thought the Minority Leader had grown past that but maybe he also has to be reminded.

     The idea of policy formulation suggests at least two (2) things. The technically minded like myself, sees this as an act of analysis (we are talking about public policy formulation) to find the optimal solution to a complicated problem. That is where we find ourselves in a jurisprudence where there is uncertainty because the framers of the THA Act saw it fit to put a legal phrase

“without prejudice to”, as I am hearing the Minority Leader saying that it means, “subject to”. Nothing is further from the truth. [Desk thumping]

     The political-minded (like the Minority Leader, I supposed) sees policy formulation as gaining the support for a series of planning, controlling and protection mechanisms through a legislative process, and maybe this is why there is this acceptance that somebody in Trinidad must do everything for us. They want us to rely on a Parliament where section 39 (2) asked us to accept

these laws because we can never; the Tobagonian can never self-actualize through the Parliament. They know this, but they will come for our two (2) seats again in a couple of years unless the Prime Minister sees it fit to call early elections. He seems, like Patrick Manning, to want to call early elections. [Desk thumping] Clearly, he has not learnt that every time an early election is called the PNM loses, but all the power to him.

     The latter term - those who believe in this political-minded policy Formulation - the first technical-minded people cast   policy formulation in terms of rationality, so the Chief is being rational.   We are being rational by seeing this major problem that we have and coming up   with a solution for the problem. The problem is probably not clearly defined;   the problem is that there is a law that says that we should administer this   policy and a law that says that without prejudice to section 75 - we cannot   administer it. The interpretation is that. The policy, however, is what we are   going to implement.




[Desk thumping] Good afternoon, Madam Presiding Officer. Thank you very much.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as always, I want to thank the good people of Scarborough/Mt. Grace for voting positively for my representation, to allow me the opportunity to speak in this House.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I sat and I listened to the Chief Secretary, and not once did I hear the Chief Secretary say that the intent of the Motion was to change any law; was to make any policy that was contrary to a policy already established by the Government in Trinidad. I sat here and listened to the Minority Leader, and I am amazed at the presentation. I did not plan to call derogatory terms today, so I will desist.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I wrote several versions today, not being sure where I wanted to go, because this is a critical, critical Motion for the movement of Tobago, as we take responsibility according to the Act for what the Parliament granted in 1996. It is critical - it is critical because for twenty-one (21) years there has been no positive movement in our quest for self-determination. As a matter of fact, the movement has been to give away the gains that were made from 1980 to 1996. When a Member of this House comes to the House to make an argument, that the laws of the THA Act should be left to be carried out by the Central Government because they have Section 75 (1), then all of Tobago begins to understand where we are and why we are where we are today. That under the PNM, whether there is PNM in Tobago, or in Trinidad, the intent is to move us backward. [Desk thumping] We have evidence, Madam Presiding Officer in the Bills that they presented. [Desk thumping]

     Today, we have administrative control over six (6) nautical miles, (small) granted as it maybe, the Bills that they presented, took away that. The Bills they presented for Tobagonians to accept were to bribe us for six point nine percent (6.9%) minimum; a figure that we can get today, that they refuse to give. The Bill asked Tobagonians to accept that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago should be able to buy any land in Tobago for the use not of the State, but of the Government. So the Government can decide according to what they were putting forward, they can come to Scarborough and buy this piece of land and come and get it, and say, we are going to use it for the purpose of the Government. That is what they wanted us to do. The in land waters, whatever that means, maybe there is a river and the little drains that we have, and the waterfalls and the dams that we have, that they can have responsibility for it, all of it.

     We must sit like sheep (according to the Minority Leader) and say “Hey, the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago are superior to the THA Act”, as though the THA Act is not a law in Trinidad and Tobago. [Desk thumping] So I try, Madam Presiding Officer, to not get upset, but maybe I have gone back to this version of the speech because clearly, there is a need for repetition of some of the things that the Chief Secretary said. There is a need clearly, for repetition everyday in this island, so that people who support this Trinidad party that subjugate, alienate, control us, take our money, give us crumbs, can understand that there is need - and there is a quantum leap if necessary in Tobago and in Tobago governance model. The little gains that we have made in this island legislatively, if we do not take it, the Government in Trinidad will take it. That is what has happened. The Minority Leader is somehow suggesting that we continue that process; leave everything to be done by Trinidad, because there is Section 75 of the Constitution. I will come to that later.

So, Madam Presiding Officer, I would like to think that, when we talk about law, whether it is law-making or the adherence of law, there ought to be a natural sense of invaluable sanity inherent in our attitude towards it. The Minority Leader will look for a synonym for that I am sure.

    The Chief Secretary spoke, Madam Presiding Officer, of sections 25 (1), (2) and (3), Section 26 and Section 27. I would like to reiterate some of that, and because I will go slowly, I want to beg your indulgence to turn your eyes away from the clock today because this is important. [Laughter]

    Madam Presiding Officer, over the last decade we have witnessed acts being performed in Tobago and utterances being made with respect to Tobago, that would suggest that Tobago is just another part of an indivisible so-called Unitary State.





Member for Scarborough/Mt. Grace.

Madam Presiding Officer, so I continue.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I was asking the question: what is the real issue we are trying to fix? It is my information, Madam Presiding Officer. As we look at this question - and I am asking whether it is because the EMA warned this Administration that their stage was interfering with the natural environment of the sea. Is it, as the Chief Secretary just pointed out, that he would have received numerous letters of inquiry and warning as far as I understand? Is it that this Administration has already signed off on multi- million dollar contracts to their financing friends, to develop eco-sensitive areas in Tobago such as: Cove, King’s Bay, Pigeon Point, Courland, and Bloody Bay? So, is it that there is some kind of clandestine plan where this Administration is really trying to take control of the environment so that they would have no one to answer to?

     I am watching and I have some photos here. I am wondering if this Administration is aware that there is currently a construction happening at the back of Cove that is interfering with the natural shoreline and seacoast. As far as I understand, a letter has been penned to the EMA from a citizen, seeking to identify this potential illegal development project for a resort at Cove. I hope when the Chief Secretary comes to speak to us again, he will clarify whether his Administration, is aware of any resort development at Cove at this time.

     Madam Presiding Officer, if it is one thing that the eighteen-month history of this TPP Transformers has taught us, is that this Administration is dangerous; they are wicked; they are self-serving, and like Judas, they will spirit away Tobago's heritage for thirty (30) pieces of silver. It is quite ironic that the Chief Secretary also talked about Judas, so, perhaps, he knows him well.

    It is in this context I am calling on all right-thinking Tobagonians to speak up and speak out against and in protection of Tobago’s environment, Tobago’s lands and Tobago’s people.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as I close, I would simply want to remind the people of Tobago that laws are not simply enacted to govern people, but they are also created to protect the people from irresponsible and self¬serving Governments. Therefore, I wish to caution the people of Tobago that while the Motion is masked with the intention of seeking to exercise the full extent of THA’s powers as it relates to administrating over matters of the environment in Tobago, hidden in the belly of this Motion, is a number of clandestine and sinister motives with the sole intention of preserving this failed Administration's survival.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to respectfully suggest to my

Colleagues and fellow Tobagonians of like-thinking, that whether or not we agree with the law, we are duty bound to respect and abide by the law, until such time, as there is constitutional change.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in the final analysis, there is a difference between fighting and fighting up; picking fights of which there is little to no legal basis. Wasting scarce financial resources will take us nowhere, except to the courthouse. I believe it will serve this Administration and all of us as

Tobagonians better, to focus on collaboration; focus on cohesion. Let us focus on harmony in governance to the benefit of not just a few, but all the people of Tobago and Trinidad.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to conclude by reminding this Administration and the people of Tobago, of a popular saying that says, “When elephant fight, it is only the grass that suffers”. Tobagonians are feeling the pain; Tobagonians are awaiting the next opportunity to exercise their hurt; their disappointment in this corrupt, oppressive and evil Administration.

I thank you. [Desk thumping]




Please note you have five (5) minutes. Thank you.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer, and let me thank the Chief Secretary for his intervention and his sportsmanship.

3:15

By way of division, Minority Leader, you may continue. Thank you.

Division

The House divided: AYES: 12 NOES: Nil Abstained: NIL

AYES

Augustine, Hon. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Morrison, M.

Taitt, N.

Burris, Councillor T.

Williams-Orr, Councillor C.

Clarke, W.

Sampson, J.

Kerr, Councillor O.

Daniel-Benoit, Councillor P.

Morris, K.

ABSENT: 7


A division means everyone has to vote.


Please allow the Member to finish his contribution.

Madam Presiding Officer, can we have a division please?

Unfortunately, Minority Leader, your time is up.

Clerk.

EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: that the Hon. Member’s speaking time be extended by a further five (5) minutes. [Councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit]

Question put and negatived.


Member, your time has elapsed.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

,... ‘'means that any responsibility given to the Tobago House of Assembly pursuant to section 25 (1) of the Act, must be subject to the overriding and overarching national policy directives of the Cabinet to the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Section 25 (1) gives the Tobago House of Assembly to implement policies that are consistent with that of the Government in instances where the Government already has a policy in place. Section 25 (1) of the Act does not give the THA responsibility to formulate and/or implement policy in respect of matters set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Act, which may frustrate or hamper the implementation of Government policy. The decision makes it very clear that there are limits regarding the manner in which the THA can exercise its power that has been given under section 25 of the THA Act in relation to the matters prescribed in the Fifth Schedule of Act 40 of 1996.”

     Madam Presiding Officer, these are not my words. These are matters tested in the High Courts of Trinidad and Tobago for interpretation The second place to go, Madam Presiding Officer, is section 53 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Section 53 gives the Parliament the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Trinidad and Tobago. The THA Act respects the position that the law - making function is given to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, firstly at section 4 (8) of the THA Act which states:


“No provision of this Act or of an Assembly law shall be construed or interpreted so as to authorize anything which is inconsistent with or contrary, to or in derogation of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”


In the very THA Act, further, section 29 (4) says:


“A Bill adopted by the Assembly shall not seek to abrogate, suspend, repeal, alter, override or be contrary to any written law of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago or imposed any direct or indirect taxation whatsoever.”


     Madam Presiding Officer, Dr. Vanus James, an eminent Tobago scholar and advocate of the Tobago people, noted that the EMA Act of 2000 was put in place after the THA Act. Therefore, it supersedes the provisions of the THA Act except with respect to the specific matters, having to do with the implementation.

     Dr. James further said that when it comes to EMA related policy that they put in place as pursuant to their national obligation, then section 31 of that Act applies, which states that all Government agencies including the THA, is subject to the policies of the EMA. When you have a respected son of the soil and someone who openly campaigned to put these so-called Independents in power, saying to Tobago that what this Administration is attempting to do is wrong, we must all be concerned.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we must not simply be concerned but we got to ask ourselves the question, who did this Administration speak to before they brought this Motion to the House? I did not hear the Chief Secretary mention a word about consultation. Who are they taking their advice from and who did they consult on this matter? Did they consult the environmentalist groups in Tobago? I heard of none. Did they consult the conservative groups of Tobago? Did they consult the fisherfolk? Did they consult the farmer? Did they consult you, Tobago?

     Madam Presiding Officer, in the absence of consultation, how could we truly know what the people of Tobago really wants? However, I am not surprised because this has been the modus operandi of Farley and his friends, where their mantra seems to be, “Break the law first, consult after”.

     Madam Presiding Officer, another point to note is that the mandate of the EMA Act is equally applicable to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, as it is applicable to the Tobago House of Assembly in Tobago. Therefore, I am quite flabbergasted to understand what the issue is, with the relationship between the EMA and the Environment here in Tobago, that the Assembly is trying to correct or fix. What is the issue?

Just as how the   Government...




Member you have five (5) minutes.

3:05

     Part of the Health Ordinance would have created a situation where we closed the borders of both Trinidad and Tobago to safeguard the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, understanding the interconnectivity of the islands and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. So, in that situation, should we as an Assembly say, “No, this does not apply to us. We want the tourism dollars so we would leave “our borders open?” If we had left our borders opened, and there were the influx of visitors coming in, and they had infected persons residing in Tobago, and persons in Tobago went to Trinidad to shop and they infected persons in Trinidad, could you imagine the kind of chaos and confusion that such would have caused?

     Madam Presiding Officer, another living example. Think about it. We are talking about the environment. There is a situation where the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for Foreign Affairs, and therefore, they signed a number of international treaties. One of the main concerns at the attention of the global population at this time, is the issue of climate change and how we treat with, basically, carbon emissions. So, from time to time, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of the country of Trinidad and Tobago signs treaties. Let us say one of those treaties is that as a policy, we are going to the point of disbanding vehicles with fuel and we are going strictly to electric vehicles, could you imagine the THA saying, “We are in charge of the environment so we are not going to listen to that treaty, and therefore, we are still going to allow vehicles with fuel?” There is the inter¬island ferry where there are vehicles coming and going from Trinidad and Tobago. Could you imagine trying to regulate something like that? It is for that very reason, Madam Presiding Officer, the Constitution clearly states that whatever we do here in Tobago must - it did not say may.

     I want to remind the Chief Secretary - he quoted 26 (2), but 26 (2) says ‘may,’ so it is a courtesy. It does not say will; it does not say you have to do it; but in this situation, it is saying that you must be in alignment with whatever is in the Constitution; whatever is the policy of the Cabinet. At the end of the day, as much as we want to be our own man, and we all wish or perhaps would like to see Tobago having more authority, we have to understand what the law in front of us is, and we all must abide by the law at the end of the day. You may not like it, but even if you do not like the law, as long as you remain a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, we all have to abide by the law.

     I will go a little further into the court judgment because the court also said, and it asked itself the question, are any powers given to the THA under the THA Act 1996 to the exclusion of the general powers given to the Cabinet?The court finds that the answer to this unplain reading of section 25 (1) of the THA Act when reading the THA Act of 1996 as a whole, is no. The Judge went on to make the following orders.


“In the matter of construction of section 25 (1) of the Tobago House of Assembly Act, 25 (3), together with the Fifth Schedule thereto in relation to section 75 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, section 25 (1) in its plain and ordinary meaning,...



Thank you for the protection, Madam Presiding Officer.

..Chapter 54 (70), to provide electricity for industrial, commercial, and

residential customers throughout Trinidad and Tobago. This State-owned Electricity Transmission and Distribution Utility, T&TEC, is guided by Section 31 of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission Act Chapter 54 (70), which states that T&TEC has the power to:

  • Manage and operate the works acquired by the commission;

  • Establish, manage and operate such works as the commission may consider expedient to establish;

  • Promote and encourage the use of energy;

  • Advise the Government on all matters relating to the generation, transmission, distribution and use of energy;

  • Be the leading source of providing electricity in Trinidad and Tobago;

  •  The Trinidad and   Tobago Electricity Commission is responsible for the delivery of a safe,   reliable and high quality electricity supply to the entire nation.

     Therefore, this speaks to the exclusive responsibility of   the Central Government, to provide the good governance of Tobago with respect   to all matters related to the supply of electricity, comprising residential,   commercial and industrial customers.

     Madam Presiding  Officer, is it that we will be debating having our own Tobago Electricity  Commission; our own T&TEC? Is it that the Chief Secretary is now saying   that notwithstanding the laws and provision of the Constitution, we, as   currently constituted, will be moving towards having our own Tobago   Electricity Commission (TTEC)?

Madam Presiding Officer, before I go any further, it is   important to correct the misconception conveyed by this mischievous and   misleading Motion before this honourable Assembly, in light of the simple distinction between the Government and an Assembly.

    Members are free to refer to themselves as the Government of Independents. However, Madam Presiding Officer, if we look at section 141A (1) of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution, it states that:

“There shall be an Assembly for Tobago called ‘The Tobago House of Assembly’, in this chapter referred to, as “the Assembly”.


     Madam Presiding Officer as enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago (and I repeat, the Constitution of both islands, Trinidad, and the island of Tobago), which is the supreme law of this land - Tobago, I looked far; I looked wide; I look at the TITA Act, and Tobago is not referred to as a Government, but rather as an Assembly. Therefore, this Assembly can have the powers afforded to it by the Constitution, as well as any legislation passed or policy created by the Central Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as a point of reference, there is a recent decision of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago which explained what this meant in the context of the Tobago House of Assembly’s responsibility, to implement policy in relation to matters listed in the Fifth Schedule. The decision also explained the extent to which the Assembly can implement policy that is inconsistent with that of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The short answer based on the judgment, is that the Assembly cannot implement policy and law that is inconsistent with any policy of the Cabinet or laws which are inconsistent with the laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Judge in the matter, Tobago House of Assembly versus the Attorney General - CV 2013-00153 stated at paragraphs 85 - 89 of her decision:

“The Court has therefore perused the totality of the THA Act which has been contended for by both parties, but more so on the part of the defendant and considers that the outcome of such an exercise, is that the language, and section 25 (1) of the THA Act, is in all of the circumstances, plain and unambiguous.”

This Court also notes that the Fifth Schedule responsibilities have

national impact. Example:

  • “Town and Country Planning;

  • Infrastructure - including air and sea transportation, wharves and airports, and public utilities;

  • Telecommunications;

  • Health Services;

  • The Environment.


Tobago cannot therefore have autonomy where these responsibilities are concerned. To permit this, would certainly lead to confusion and potential disaster in the management and direction of national affairs.”

Madam Presiding Officer, I just want to pause for a second.

     Just recently we came out of the COVID-19 experience, and clearly stated within the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act, is Health. Tobago has the administrative responsibility for health in Tobago. Yet, Madam Presiding Officer, during that period of COVID-19, there is something called “The Health Ordinance” that was proclaimed in Trinidad and Tobago. I want to ask the Chief Secretary, and I want to ask Tobagonians as well, because I am looking at it from two (2) standpoints. (1) Had the Chief Secretary then taken the decision as the Chief Secretary now, that, “We big; we bad; we name man, so we are not listening to anybody from Trinidad”, where would all of us be at this point? Think about it! The Government in Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for the airport in Trinidad, and the THA Act here is saying that the Fifth Schedule says that you are responsible for the airport in Tobago.






Members, Standing Order 44, please!

Continue.

Any other interpretation will ensure (as we are seeing with the Chief Secretary) unnecessary and costly trips to the Courthouse of which this Administration is unlikely to win.

    So, I want to ask this Chief Secretary: what is next? True to form, he did tell us what is next. I also saw that as the antithesis to further action. I understand the Chief Secretary’s challenge, because he is leading a failed Administration, that all of Tobago is waiting to exhale, and therefore, he has to conjure up a fight. We know even global politics teaches us, “An unpopular Government, an incompetent Government facing being voted out, they always look for a war”. In this instance, what the Chief Secretary is looking to do, is rile up emotions; rile up Tobagonians behind a fight, so that he can deflect from the incompetence of this Administration; so that he can deflect from the pain that Tobagonians are feeling; so that he can deflect from the fact that he leads the most corrupt Administration in the history of this Tobago House of Assembly.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I just want to stress and give some living examples about this conflict and why it is so important that they will... [Interruption] Madam Presiding Officer, I sat, I listened attentively - in terms of the conflict and why it is so important.

     Madam Presiding Officer, for example, there is a state agency called ‘SWMCOL’ which is the Trinidad Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited. It was incorporated on November 12th, 1980 as a wholly-owned state enterprise to provide technical, managerial and supervisory assistance to public and private institutions in the collection,handling, treatment and disposal of solid waste in Trinidad and Tobago. At the Ninth Sitting of the Joint Select Committee (JSC), on Ministry, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, SWMCOL reflected that in relation to the environment and due to the peculiar circumstances of Tobago, the country's national policy reflects the high level of responsibility and authority of the THA, to manage matters concerning Tobago’s environment.

So, is it that we will be debating eventually having our own SWMCOL? Madam Presiding Officer, another living example, is that of T&TEC. We all know what are the various areas of responsibilities under the Fifth Schedule of the THA, and Public Utilities is one. Yet, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission was established under the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission Act... [Interruption]



Madam Presiding Officer, it is indeed a pleasure to rise and contribute to this debate.

     Madam Presiding Officer, if it is one take away from this presentation that gives me comfort is the fact that clearly, this newly formed Tobago’s People’s Party (TPP) has launched its campaign, and it gives me comfort that soon we will be going back to an election because clearly, that speech was an election speech filled with emotions and little substance. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, the second thing I want to do before I begin my Motion, is to commend the Member for Bagatelle/Bacolet for disassociating herself with this most frivolous Motion. I want to commend the Member for having the appreciation that this Motion makes absolutely no sense, and the Member stayed at home and rightfully so.

     Madam Presiding Officer, let me make it abundantly clear from the onset, that I as Minority Leader, along with the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement, agreed in principle (and we have always agreed) that Tobago should have increased responsibility and approved authority to govern its own affairs, not just in respect of the environment, but for all the areas of administration that were proposed in the latest version of the Tobago Autonomy Bill, a bill that Farley and his United National Congress (UNC) friends outrightly refused to support.

     Madam Presiding Officer, had the Tobago Island Government Bill passed, there would have been absolutely no need for this frivolous, superfluous, vacuous, nonsensical Motion. Rather what could have perhaps been in front this honourable House for consideration today, is a meaningful bill seeking to establish a law, not a policy; not a Motion, but a law to treat with all the issues highlighted in this Motion. In the final analysis, Madam Presiding Officer, this Motion calls for corrective actions of which this Assembly itself cannot lawfully provide.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I would like to therefore remind Members, Colleagues of the Tobago House of Assembly, that we ought to remember that we all took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution and the law, not just of Tobago - the laws of Trinidad and Tobago, at all times. It is therefore not for us to cherry-pick and nit-pick which law we uphold and which law we disregard.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the words of our very own, the late, great honourable A.N.R. Robinson, during the Senate debate of the Tobago House of Assembly Bill of 1996 is instructive, and I quote:


“Our Constitution says Trinidad and Tobago shall be a Sovereign Democratic State so one does not set up a bureaucratic structure and leave it. One sets up a structure which is responsible and responsive to the people. Whatever else one has and what it sought to do here, is to make the Tobago House of Assembly responsive and responsible in limited areas, not in all areas.”


     The point underscored by this outstanding Statesman, was that he understood that there were limitations to the powers of the Assembly, and therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us as Assembly men voted into office by our fellow Tobagonians, to always remember our responsibility to the people of Tobago, bearing in mind that this responsibility must be exercised in alignment with the law. Therefore, notwithstanding how we may feel about a particular law - that does not give us the right to break that law.

    Madam Presiding Officer, it is important for us to understand as Tobagonians and citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, that what this Administration is attempting to do here today, is constitutionally unlawful, politically deceptive, divisive and I dare say, dangerous. This Motion is at its least self-servicing and at best mischievous, and will not in any meaningful way improve the lives of the average Tobagonian.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I know that Tobagonians are smart. They do not riot, but they do think. I will not seek to take the treacherous path of the Chief Secretary, the mover of this Motion. However, I see an opportunity to enlighten and to caution the wider Tobago population, that while we as an Assembly enjoy wide areas of administrative responsibility under the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act, those responsibilities cannot lawfully conflict or supersede any other related law of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Chief Secretary began his debate by reading the THA Act. What the Chief Secretary failed to do was begin from the Constitution. What the Chief Secretary actually tried to do is build a house without a foundation; the foundation law of Trinidad and Tobago, unless I probably missed it when I slept. The Chief Secretary got up this morning, he seceded and we are no longer part of Trinidad and Tobago. As far as we remain the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, everything we do, begins and ends with the Constitution. In fact, the very THA Act is a creature of the Constitution so it cannot be interpreted in absence or in isolation of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, this poorly drafted resolution states that not only does this undemocratic Government of Independents intend to remove the EMA, but they are also seeking to replace the EMA with their own institution which would be set up for the very same purpose or similar mandate to that of the EMA.

This arrogant and errant gang of Independents asserts that this is possible under the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act, and section 25 of the Tobago House of Assembly Act. Madam Presiding Officer, as I previously mentioned, the starting of any such debate must be the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, in particular section 75 (1) and section 53.


     Madam Presiding Officer, section 75 (1) of the Constitution reads: “There shall (must) be a Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago which shall have the general direction and control of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and shall be collectively responsible therefore to the Parliament.”

    It is important to note that section 25 of the THA Act which the Chief Secretary quoted, says:

“Without prejudice to section 75 (1) of the Constitution...”


     So the operation of the implementation of established institutions frameworks and mechanisms must by reason, be in alignment with the provisions of the Constitution.

     For emphasis, I repeat, Madam Presiding Officer, section 25 (1) of the very THA Act says:


“Without prejudice to section 75 (1) of the Constitution, the Assembly shall, in relation to Tobago, be responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy in respect of matters set out in the Fifth Schedule.”


    Madam Presiding Officer, I do not fault any Tobagonian who may construe this to mean that this clause of the THA Act affords Tobago unfettered and unlimited authority to exercise its powers in these matters. However, it is important for us all to understand that without prejudice simply means, not contrary to; not in conflict with; not in opposition to the Constitution.








Honourable Members, the question proposed is that the Motion be amended by these words, be   there inserted after the fifth recital stating:


“AND WHEREAS one such Division is the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and   Sustainable Development;”


The Second Amendment proposed, is to have the sixth  recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED that the government of Tobago take full responsibility and authority for the management of all matters   concerning Tobago’s environment;”


be left out of the question, and to add or insert the recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago immediately proceed to establish the institutions, frameworks and mechanisms   necessary for the effective and successful assumption, and implementation of all matters concerning the management of Tobago’s environment;”


Members taking part in the debate hereafter, may speak on the original Motion and the proposed amendments.

Minority Leader.


Madam Presiding Officer, I beg to second the proposed amendments.

Is there a seconder to the amendments?


Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

In accordance with Standing Order 41 (2), I beg to move that the

Motion be amended as follows:

That the words be inserted after the fifth recital stating:

“AND WHEREAS one such Division is the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development;”


The second amendment proposed, is to have the sixth recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago take full responsibility and authority for the management of all matters concerning Tobago’s environment;”


be left out of the   question, and to add or insert the recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago immediately proceed to establish the institutions, frameworks and mechanisms   necessary for the effective and successful assumption, and implementation of   all matters concerning the management of Tobago's environment;”


So, Madam Presiding Officer, the amended Motion will read as follows...

[Interruption]

Original question proposed.

I am going to call on the Chief Secretary to reread the amendments for the Hansard. Chief Secretary?


We have an appreciation, that this is bigger than just the environment. What they really want to do is to stymied Tobago’s development. That is their hope. The law says, once it is a Fifth Schedule matter, it shall be carried out by the Tobago House of Assembly, and where there are statutory bodies or state agencies, they must carry out, Madam Presiding Officer, the programme or policy of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). They must! We are also making it clear that where there policies are codified in law already, the THA is empowered to carry out those in accordance with the Fifth Schedule. That is the law; that is the basic law.

So, Madam Presiding Officer, in accordance with Standing Order 41 (2), I beg that the Motion be amended. I beg that it be amended so that it becomes even more acute in dealing with the problem that we have.

     I beg to move that the words be inserted after the fifth recital stating:

‘AND WHEREAS one such Division is the Division of   Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable   Development;”


The second   amendment proposed, is to have the sixth recital:


“BE IT RESOLVED   that the Government of Tobago take full responsibility and authority for   the management of all matters concerning Tobago’s environment;”


be left out of the   question, and to add or insert the recital in its place:


“BE IT RESOLVED   that the Government of Tobago immediately proceed to establish the   institutions, frameworks and mechanisms necessary for the effective and   successful assumption, and implementation of all matters concerning the management of Tobago's environment.”


  I so move, Madam Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]


Member, you have five (5) minutes.

2.35 P.M

     Then some Permanent Secretary in Trinidad will say, “Well, you are not ready for that, take two (2) years before you take it”. Notwithstanding the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), putting everything in place, fixing the place, providing a space for the workers, prepared a budget to subsume all of their contract workers and so on, still, Madam Presiding Officer, dilly dallying, trying to avoid having it come to Tobago.

     The real problem they have, is Tobago becoming a developed society. [Desk thumping] That is the problem that they have. They love Tobago when we are dancing bare feet and dancing on cocoa and whining up our waist. They love Tobago because it is rustic and we could live in the bush. They love Tobago for places that cannot get internet, but when it comes to Tobago becoming developed, you measure your development by the height of a coconut tree, and stay put. That is their principles, but long as we are


2.25 P.M

     When I campaigned in the 2016-2017 elections, the villagers said to me that that spot was a bad place to put it. We really did not agree to this design; we did not agree to the placement, but guess what? The Government built it anyway and ignored the people. The people who they really should have listened to then, were the residents; the citizens of Castara. They did not listen to them. They still built it. You did not hear a squeak from anybody, except that at one point the Prime Minister, in driving around, asked the question, “Who built this monstrosity on the beach?” They had built it already. They did not care whether the Prime Minister then agreed or disagreed with it. They built it. In fact, in building it, they were saying to the Prime Minister “This is our business. Whether you thought it was a monstrosity or not, this is our business”, and they built it still.

     We go further, Madam Presiding Officer, and we looked at the completion of Princess Bay Roxborough Jetty. The Roxborough Jetty that is there, had received notice of refusal too. Fishing tournaments are kept at that Jetty every year. Boat race happens there at that jetty in Roxborough. They built it anyway. The revetment work along the coastline is the same Princess Bay. No approval was given forthat. They built it any way. Madam Presiding Officer, Charlotteville - built anyway.

     When I heard all of a sudden, tunes were changing - and one could tell political opportunism from genuine concern for Tobago’s patronage and its heritage - political opportunism, and trying to use the environment opportunistically. They really do not care about the environment. What they are really trying to do is disrupt and retard any programmes done by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). That is what they are trying to do. While that is happening, Madam Presiding Officer, there are several measures of disrespect happening to Tobagonians and to the THA. Disrespect! It is just that I do not talk as much as Orville London, the former Chief Secretary, or else, I would have been in the news every night, calling out the Central Government for disrespect in Tobago.

     We came into office, met NIDCO with plans to put down a marina in Tobago. When did the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) obtained the authority to put down a marina in Tobago? The National Infrastructure Development Company does not have that authority in the law, and instead of the Minority saying, “No, NIDCO, you cannot come to Tobago and put down a marina in Tobago without the THA’s approval”, the Minority supported, and continues to support NIDCO in putting down a marina in Tobago. Well, not under my watch. [Desk thumping] A marina can happen, but it will happen on Tobago’s terms.

    Letters were sent to NIDCO for meetings about the airport being built (and by the way, air and sea ports are listed among the Fifth Schedule) more than a year ago, and NIDCO refused to meet with the Tobago House of Assembly officials. That is disrespect! [Desk thumping] Even for the same marinas, we told them to come and meet with us and all now they cannot meet on it. Disrespect! Highly disrespectful! That is okay.

     When I searched the annals of history, I saw former Chief Secretary, London, making noise because there was once a Ministry called the Ministry for Tobago Development. They were down in Magdalena giving out hampers and food cards and so on, and he made noise saying that that was disrespectful to Tobago; they cannot come and execute a function under the Fifth Schedule. He put every Minister in their place; everyone of them, from Baker to Toppin; everyone one of them he put in their place, and rightfully so. Today, it is a different tune. The disrespect must not happen when the shoe is on the other foot, but once I am in the seat, it is fine. That is not how we govern an island, and that is when you can tell when people are genuine from when people are not genuine.

    I hope in response to this Motion, the Minority would tell Tobagonians if at any point over the last year and four (4) or five (5) months, they ever told any of their colleagues in Trinidad that what they are doing is disrespectful and wrong to the people of Tobago.

     Imagine as the Chief Secretary, I am receiving letters and emails from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), asking about overwater bungalows in Pigeon Point. I have to ask the question: how, in the first place did plans for that even reached the EMA? The THA Act says up to six (6) miles from the coastline belongs to the THA for administrative control. How were plans even passed by the Town and Country Planning? How did it even reached the EMA for there to be an application for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC), without the THA being aware? That is disrespectful!

    Imagine you are sitting in an office and a letter would come indicating,“We are going and extend the jetty at the Port”. Really? Is that how we do business? No conversation first - and at that point, all the letters are coming and it is at the place for consultation, which means the plans are already pre-approved and ready for execution and there is a THA here.

     What you heard from the Minority is silence; hush; quiet. Maybe somebody in Trinidad told them to hush their mouths. Maybe somebody told them to zip up their mouths. I know, Madam Presiding Officer, when I go to bed and sleep, it is only one person’s face I am turning to, and that is my wife, and when I look up, it is to God, so I am not afraid of the faces of any neo¬colonial master anywhere in Trinidad. [Desk thumping] They must know their place. I have come to realize that whenever a people are trying to get freedom, trying to break free, it is always your own that stands in the way of that.

     In fact, Harriet Tubman said she could have freed a million more, if only they were in agreement with her. Harriet Tubman was busy trying to run an underground railroad to free people, and some of her own people were trying to get her caught out, because there becomes a psychological condition (I would not blame them too much); a condition called ‘Stockholm syndrome’that when you are abused for so long, sometimes you fall in love with your

abuser. It is a real condition.

     So, notwithstanding having a Prime Minister who is Tobagonian by “b i r t h”, and clearly, he became a ‘Trini’ by "b o a t”; despite having Cabinet Members there, the disrespect continues.

Imagine Secretaries here were invited and then uninvited from the commissioning of wells and plans for the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). The law is clear that public utilities in Tobago must be in adherence to the programmes or polices of the THA. [Desk thumping] All of that happened. Though we have been quiet and not saying much, we are trying our best to be polite, to be nice, to work it out and to find a solution. The Minister came up from Trinidad, Minister resident in Tobago, and the Secretaries were invited and uninvited. What did the Minority had to say about that? Not a word!

   If I were a Hochoy Charles kind of fellow, (and Hochoy Charles and I good. He says I do not listen to him all the time and becomes vex when I do not listen to him all the time); if I were a Hochoy Charles character, those wells were not going to be commissioned at all. He would have put them off the same way he went after Carlos John for paving the roads in Tobago. He would have put them off of the island. I am not a Hochoy Charles fellow as I try my best to live peaceably with all men. I try my best as possible to work it out; I try my best to say “all right, small thing, let it slide. The people will get their water”. That disrespect happened right here in Tobago so this Motion is bigger than just the environment. The Town and County Planning Motion is bigger than just the environment.

     Let me give you an update on that while we are at it, and tell you that there would be many more Motions like this one in this House, because we would be taking up every ounce of the authority we have - every ounce.

     [Desk thumping] The Town and Country Planning Division - we sent down all the lawyers, to the Senior State Counsel’s Office. They sat with the Parliamentary Counsel, Town and Country Planning Division, and the lawyers in Trinidad agreed. They said, “Listen, we cannot beat you on the law, you all really and truly should be managing Town and Country Planning in Tobago.” That was their conclusion.






2.15 P.M

    I wish to go further by saying, we cannot sit in this place and make noise for greater autonomy, and the areas under the Fifth Schedule for which we do have exclusive executive administrative controls, we are not taking it up, and then making noise for more. The fight for autonomy starts by enacting and utilizing all four (4) squares of Act 40 of 1996. Let us start with what we have, and then we will fight for the others.

    Madam Presiding Officer, this Motion - and I saw quite a lot of commentary from some. Some say, “Well, it sounds as if the Assembly is going and boot out the Environment Management Agency (EMA). Some said, “Well, the THA is subservient to the EMA,” and that in itself is a problematic legal position to take. If that is in fact a correct legal position, it means that the Government at any moment without notice, could make a law newer than Act 40 of 1996, and just take away all of the powers and all of the responsibilities of the Tobago House of Assembly and that will beokay. There is a basic principle in law anywhere in the world, which is.

“Freedom once given, cannot be taken back”. That is a basic principle.

Once it is given, it cannot be retracted. [Desk thumping] It cannot.

     I wish the Member for Roxborough/Argyle was here, because he more than anyone else in this Chamber, needs a lesson in Act 40 of 1996. It is because he cannot read it properly why he end up in the position that he is in over calculating and overstretching, and not understanding Act 40 of 1996, that governs our existence in this House.

     When it comes to the environment, Madam Presiding Officer, I can recall being a part of an exercise in this House. I think it was in November 2020, it was actually the last thing we debated in this House before the House was prorogued, and we went for an election in January 2021. In that House, we sat and unanimously, (meaning all of us) voted on a Bill to be sent down to Parliament with regard to setting up of marinas in Tobago. That was November 2020, we are now in April 2023, and that Bill has not seen the light of day yet.

     After we completed that exercise, I had a conversation with the goodly former Chief Secretary, Mr. Hochoy Charles, and he was of the opinion that we were wrong; that all of us in the House were wrong. I said, “How could we be wrong”? I said, “We cannot pass laws, and we need this policy to be legislated”. He said, “No, yes you can send down a Bill to Parliament”, but the Act actually empowers the Assembly to formulate policies over the Fifth Schedule if none exists already. And that, in his opinion, we should have proceeded to formulate the policy, and if we formulated the policy, then it meant that every agency, every statutory body,every Central Government operation on the island, would have to respect that because the law says:


‘In the carrying out of their functions in Tobago with regard to matters in the Fifth Schedule, they must recognize the policies and/or programmes of the THA”.


     I will admit that I did not get that at first. It took a while for me to appreciate what that meant and to appreciate the levels of autonomy that we actually have in Act 40 of 1996, that we have not been using, Madam Presiding Officer.

     So when we look at this Motion, we are talking about the fact that in the Tobago space, there is an urgent need for the THA beyond having what we call DNRE, or the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, a Solid Environmental Programme, establishing frameworks and mechanisms, and Institutions necessary to manage; to govern; to self- do not have to like Farley, but you must love Tobago’ and even if you like Farley, you must love Tobago more. That has to be the principle. So when you have people betraying the island, selling out the island - I do not know what is the going rate these days. I do not know with inflation and time, what is the current value of thirty (30) shekels of silver, but we have some selling out the island for less than that. They think they may have a political opportunity, Madam Presiding Officer. Hypocrisy will be the death of us if we are not careful.

     Madam Presiding Officer, allow me to point out some areas, perhaps of contention, and some unknown to the public by which the THA executed its mandate and its policy in accordance with the Fifth Schedule with regard to the environment, and the THA then, did not care about anybody from Trinidad determining whether they could do it or not, because the law says when it comes to Tobago, these Bodies must operate in accordance with the policies or programmes of the Tobago House of Assembly. I want to point out a few.

     Let us start with Pigeon Point. The revetment wall inside the Heritage Park, everybody knows it as the stonewall to protect Basso. The stonewall to protect Basso built - not an EMA permit to build it, but it was built because they needed to protect the business of Basso. They needed to protect the coastline. At another point we could have a conversation about whether the revetment wall was placed in the correct place; whether it was done properly with proper studies that would look at the impact of such an anthropogenic feature on the beach and beach formation. We could have a discussion at another time.

     But the point that I am making, is that the THA then, saw the need to provide some protection to an enterprise in the area. What they did? They proceeded to go and build a revetment.

      I was in the minority then. Did anybody in Tobago heard me curse the then Government and say, no, wait on Trinidad to tell them whether or not they could put the revetment there or not? No! Nobody could say I did that as a Member of the minority then, because I recognized that the Government then, had the authority so to do. Whether I agreed or whether it was the right placement, whether I agreed they should have built it in the first place or not, it was part of their policy, and so they built it.


     When we look at the EMA-CC summary database, we saw, Madam Presiding Officer, that there was notice of refusal to build the fishing facility in Castara. In other words, the EMA wrote them and said, “Do not build it”.


What the THA did? They built it anyway and said, “If you name man, stop it”. I was in the minority then; I was the Area Representative for Castara, after the building got started, so the project started before 1 came into office and completed while I was in office as the Area Representative.






2.05 P.M

I understand, Madam Presiding Officer, that this is an island that has had a long and brutal history with slavery, and so the psychology of a house slave is understandable. They very seldom desire to go against their master, because somehow, they feel that the little extra piece of fat from the meat they get in the household, somehow makes them superior to the majority out in the fields. We understand that this is really a battle against a house slave mentality. We will do the battle nonetheless, because we will rescue all. In fact, I come from a background that believes in going and looking for the one that is lost, even though you may be ninety-nine (99) in the fold - find the one that is lost. So, we will find the one (1) or the two (2), or the three (3) that may be lost and rescue them today.

     In section 25 (1), it says:


     “Without prejudice to section 75 (1) of the Constitution, the Assembly shall, in relation to Tobago, be responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy in respect of matters set out in the Fifth Schedule.”


It says here, that the THA has some responsibility that it can formulate and it can carry out. I think that is the part that is beating some people, because in some instances, the Central Government will, or may have (in the past) established policies by way of codifying it in law, for which the THA will now have a responsibility to carry it out. This side has never argued that a Central Government does not have a right to make law, or even to establish a policy for which none exists at the moment in Tobago. What we have always contended, is that the execution of any such policy, once it is related to the Fifth Schedule, must be by the Tobago House of Assembly. [Desk thumping]

Section 25 (2) says:


“For the better performance of its functions, the Assembly is hereby empowered to do all not some, but all -

... such acts and take all such steps as may be necessary for, or incidental to the exercise of its powers or for the discharge of its duties and in particular...


not those in general -

...may:


(a) devise mechanisms to ensure the protection and security of property, buildings, or other assets under its control;

(b) enter into such contracts as it deems fit for the efficient discharge of its functions;

(c) obtain from international donors any grant, aid or technical assistance.”


So yes, this Assembly, if it wants, can go beyond the shores of Tobago and access grants, technical assistance and any assistance from an international donor, in the exercising of its functions under the Fifth Schedule.


Section 25 (3) says:

    “Where a statutory authority or a state enterprise provide services in Tobago, that authority or enterprise shall,...


    not if, or maybe, but shall - it must -


... in exercising its duties in relation to those services, act in accordance with the policies or programmes of the Assembly and to this end, may enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Assembly.”


25 (3) says that it recognizes that there will be areas under which the THA will not have purview such as the Sixth Schedule for which we have no legal right to instruct, so to speak. However, it says that once it is a statutory authority or a state enterprise considered under that schedule and is providing a service in Tobago, then they must do so in accordance with the policies or programmes set out by the Assembly. That is why on a monthly basis, I hold a security meeting for Tobago. The THA has no remit so to speak over National Security, but they come, we sit - all of them - Fire; Police; Defence Force; Coast Guard; Airport Authority and TEMA. They come, we sit, we discuss, we plan and we strategize, because those agencies, notwithstanding being under the Fifth Schedule - the law says once they are carrying out duties in Tobago, it must not be at the point of interfering or disrupting the policies or programmes of the Assembly, but it must be in conjunction with section 26 of the Act which says:


(1) “The Assembly shall not have responsibility for the matters set out in the Sixth Schedule.

(2) The Government or any statutory or State enterprise may, by way of Memorandum of Understanding, authorize the Assembly to act as an agent of the Government, statutory authority or state enterprise as the case may be, in respect of any of its responsibilities in Tobago.”


We spoke about that MOU as the case may be.

Section 26 (3) says:


“The Government or any relevant body as the case may be, shall promote the delivery in Tobago of services to the public in relation to the matters set out in the Seventh Schedule, and in so doing shall give due consideration to the views of the Assembly.”


Even at this point, there are many areas listed out in the Seventh Schedule still not offering their services in Tobago; still to this day, despite the fact that the law says they must provide their services in Tobago. So there are state agencies - this law is what twenty-seven (27) years old? There are state agencies, statutory bodies under Schedule 7, to this day, refusing to come to Tobago to offer the services that the law says they must offer in Tobago. Then section 27 - this is the big one. It says:


    “Where services fall within the responsibility of the Assembly pursuant to section 25 (1) or where the Assembly acts as agent of the Government, statutory authority or state enterprise pursuant to section 26 (2), the services shall (not if or may) be administered by the Assembly.”


     In other words, all of those matters in the Fifth Schedule - the law is saying that once those are happening in the Tobago space, it shall be administered by the Assembly regardless of where the policy was set; regardless if there is a law in Trinidad governing the thing, it shall be administered by the Assembly. I do not know how else to explain to people the meaning of the word, “shall”. A synonym for “shall” is “must”; have to”, “bound to”, in colloquialism - shall be administered by the Assembly - shall.

     When we look at the Motion that treats with the environment, similarly to the Town and Country Planning, we must admit that there are some areas in the Fifth Schedule for which the THA over the years has been negligent, as Request for the THA and Other Related Entities the THA has not been carrying out its function in accordance with the law. I wish to opine that that might have been deliberate in some instances. When you look prior to 2001, Tobago was managing Town and Country Planning itself. The line Secretary for Planning was doing the role that the Minister now performs for Tobago, but who took it and sent it down to Trinidad? It is either out of laziness or out of house slave mentality, somebody decided that that was too much freedom and autonomy for us; let somebody else do our job for us. One of the things we campaigned heavily on, is that we would attack with full force when it comes to the matter of Tobago’s autonomy. No apologies whatsoever! [Desk thumping] Madam Presiding Officer, if that means being rude to those who disrespect Tobago’s autonomy, we will do that. We will fight them and we will ensure that Tobago gets the autonomy that it needs. [Desk thumping}






Thank you, very much Madam Presiding Officer.

Allow me to begin by offering an apology on behalf of the Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development.


     Just a little over a week ago, the Secretary had a fainting experience at the food hub. She actually fainted at the food hub, was hospitalized and placed on some bed rest. Despite thinking that she would be able to be back out, fully operational, and despite being part of our caucusing exercises last evening, she will not be physically able to present this Motion. So, instead, I hope to do her some justice.

     The Motion Madam Presiding Officer, as written on the Order Paper,

says:

WHEREAS the Tobago House of Assembly, (hereinafter referred to as the Government of Tobago) is recognized in law, as the body responsible for the sustainable socioeconomic development of Tobago by the formulation and implementation of policy;


AND WHEREAS the geography of Tobago is enshrined in the Constitution;


AND WHEREAS culture and custom have established the people of  Tobago as having their own distinct identity;


AND WHEREAS the Fifth Schedule of Act 40 of 1996,the Government of Tobago is assigned ‘the Environment’ as one of its areas of administrative responsibility;


AND WHEREAS the Divisions of the Government of   Tobago and  related agencies and entities are the bodies most appropriate to speak  to, and made determinations on matters concerning Tobago’s  environment;


BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago take   full
 responsibility and authority for the management of all matters
 concerning Tobago’s environment;


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago immediately proceed to establish the institutions, frameworks and   mechanisms necessary for the effective and successful assumption of  all matters concerning the management of Tobago's environment;


AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government of Tobago take the actions specified above to ensure the sustainable management, preservation and protection of Tobago’s environment.”


    Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to commence my contribution to this Motion, by reading excerpts of the THA Act; the Act that governs the operations of the Tobago House of Assembly - Act 40 of 1996. I want to start by reading it, because the more we have discussions on matters pertaining to the levels of autonomy that Tobago currently enjoys, is the more we recognize that so many people are ignorant of what the law actually says and what the law actually intends. We also recognize that there are a few trying to mislead many into misinterpreting what the Act actually says. So, to ground our debate today, we must start with Act 40 of 1996.

     I did this exercise when I brought a Motion last year, concerning Town and Country Planning, and I will do it again, so that people will have very clear understanding of what the roles and functions of the Tobago House of Assembly are with regard to the Fifth Schedule in particular.

     I want us to turn our attention, Madam Presiding Officer, to Section 25 of Act 40 of 1996. I want to read verbatim, Section 25 (1), (2), (3), and Section 26 (1), (2) and (3), and end by reading Section 27 of the Act, so that we can ground our discussion. Those who oppose a Motion like this, oppose it because there is a strange belief that somehow the autonomy that we do have; the rights and responsibilities that we do have, we should not take them up, but somebody else from Trinidad must do so.



Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy, Mr. Augustine.

Madam Presiding Officer, we are governed by the

political practice of collective responsibility, and as such, due to the absence of Assemblyman Nathisha Charles-Pantin, Secretary of the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, today's Motion will be moved by the Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy, the Honourable Farley Chavez Augustine. [Desk thumping]

17th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session

TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

27 April 2023
UNREVISED
REVISED
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