Updated: Jan 31
All regular Plenary Sittings of the Tobago House of Assembly are open to the public. The 12 elected Area Representatives and their 4 Councillors meet at the Assembly Legislature Building Jerningham Street, the fourth Thursday each month at 1:30pm. This means that since 1980 there have been approximately 400 opportunities to hear first-hand what is happening in Tobago through these debates, but there are many members of the public who have never visited these Sittings and are missing out on a unique opportunity to see the local legislature at work. So, the Assembly Legislature Secretariat started an outreach programme to help change this.
The outreach programme comprises several annual projects that seek to raise awareness about what happens during the Plenary Sittings and the functions of the Assembly Legislature. These projects include, among others, the ANR Robinson Distinguished Lecture Series held in May; Study Tour on the Westminster system of government for secondary school students in July; the exhibition entitled “Tobago House of Assembly: A retrospective view” in September and the Youth Assembly Debate in December that celebrates Tobago Day. Each project focuses on a different aspect of Tobago’s legislative activity.
The ANR Robinson Distinguished Lecture Series in May is held in memory of the first Chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly, Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson, and focuses on the tenets that guided his career in public life. The annual event takes place at the Anne Mitchell-Gift Auditorium (named after former librarian and Presiding Officer of the Assembly Legislature), in collaboration with the Scarborough Library. Feature addresses in the past have been delivered by Dr. Eastlyn McKenzie and Fr. Clyde Harvey. Entry is free and open to all members of the public.
In 2016 the Assembly Legislature Secretariat had its first study tour to the United Kingdom on the Westminster system of government, as an immersive learning experience. This legislative system was inherited from the British and versions of it are still used today at both the local and national legislatures. All secondary schools in Tobago participated in the 7 day tour that included visits to the National Assembly for Wales and the UK Parliament in July.
The exhibition entitled “The Tobago House of Assembly: A retrospective view” takes place at the end of September with the main objective being to bring the public into the Assembly Building on Jerningham Street, Scarborough where the public can witness Plenary Sittings. The building is transformed into an engaging learning environment using interactive digital technology, film, game theory and theatre-style presentations. Many aspects of the island’s latent legislative and cultural history are also highlighted during the five day event through collections provided by the National Archives and the Tobago Museum. Admission is free and the public gets a chance to win prizes when they participate in games and quizzes aimed at re-enforcing their knowledge of the Legislature.
The Youth Assembly Plenary Sitting debate forms part of calendar of events for Tobago Day celebrations in December. Secondary schools students meet head-to-head in a parliamentary style debate on an issue affecting Tobago. Last year at the 4th annual Youth Assembly, the current politicians who were present all took a back seat for the day. The motion was based on starting a University in Tobago with Peace Studies as one of its core disciplines, as a catalyst to combat to combat crime. Students controlled the entire Sitting, filling all positions including the Presiding Officer, the 12 elected Area Representatives, 4 Councillors and Clerk of the Assembly. The Youth Assembly debate is also open to members of the public.
For pictures on past events visit our Facebook page at Tobago House of Assembly Legislature Secretariat.