My friends, we are seeing a government that is in freefall – in every single sector. Health, National Security, the business sector. And what that means, is that our citizens are being put under ground because of the incompetence and failure of this government.
Rowley’s Mad Power Grab in Tobago
Tonight I want to speak about something that I believe is the the highjacking – something that is wrong and illegal by this government – with respect to their pronouncements about what they want to do with the Tobago House of Assembly elections.
You see when you come to interfere with democratic institutions, the institutions that uphold the rule of law, then the very foundations of your society are being shaken.
The announcement by Prime Minister of the THA Amendment Bill – laying this Bill in the Parliament and saying it will be debated this week – there has been no consultation with the THA representatives in Tobago, except for the PNM representatives. There has been no consultation with the people of Tobago,
This is a plan to subvert the democratic will of the people of Tobago.
It is not simply about breaking a tie. The PNM has always used the institutions of our nation to subvert democracy.
This is an obscene grab for power by the Rowley PNM. They got such a licking in Tobago that they want to punish the people of Tobago by coming to the Parliament to change the law. They are saying it is for a simple majority but they are very wrong.
The Prime Minister said he got legal advice. Well tell us who gave you this legal advice.
Tell us how much it cost you to get wrong legal advice. Because it is already in the existing law of our land for a tie-breaker such as what has happened in the THA election.
But they don’t want that tie-breaker. They want to give their friends in the EBC to gerrymander the boundaries to give the PNM a victory.
They don’t want to break tie – they want to entrench the PNM in Tobago.
They are trying to push the THA Amendment Bill in one week. One week – in what they have been trying to do in other ways with another THA amendment bill which they’ve had on the Order Paper forever, which has been before a Joint Select Committee and they can’t get it done because they really don’t want to give Tobago self government.
Five years came and went, we are now in the sixth year, and they bring a piecemeal bill to break a tie.
Bringing a law with a simple majority when what you need is a special majority. When what you need is consultation with the people of Tobago.
Who did you consult? Did you consult tricky Tracy?
We brought a bill when we were in Government and the Rowley PNM did not support it.
A party that had ten seats, only retained 6 while a party with just two, gained 4 more.
There is a tie breaker already in the law.
I was Prime Minister at the time when we changed the law to deal with issues where you have a deadlock because of what was seen in the 18-18 tie.
Our Parliament has been running on standing orders from 1962 but we were working to amend the standing orders in keeping with current best practice.
In 2014 we set up a standing order committee in Parliament. We produced the standing orders of 2015. When the committee completed its work, we brought a motion to adopt the new standing orders.
There is a provision under Standing Order 4 that where there is a tie, you resolve the issue by drawing lots.
All 33 members of the House on that day voted to pass the bill.
At that time, we had already changed the seat allocation to 41 yet still we put a tie-breaker. Because circumstances could arise where a tie could occur.
Now, they are saying they don’t want a tie-breaker like that, let’s increase the number of seats in Tobago. You say you want to go to 15 – well why not 13, if it is just to create an uneven number of seats? What is the rationale for putting 15 seats?
Even with an odd number you can still end up with a tie as something could happen to a member of the day.
Right here in Trinidad it has been the law for local government regional corporations to break the tie by drawing lots. It has been done in Siparia and Mayaro.
Down to the PNM voted to change the standing orders. They voted for this tie breaker – Rowley, Imbert and Deyalsingh.
Keith Rowley said in the debate then. “I consider to be a watershed moment because if we get this done right, significant change will be done.”
Minister Imbert was a member of the committee that put forward these recommendations.
Imbert spoke about the event of a tie and electing a speaker.
He said that is a standard procedure of doing things in other jurisdictions. He said that is one innovation I warmly endorse.
There is no need to come to Parliament to change the law. There is the tie breaker.
The THA Standing Order 92 says where the standing orders of Tobago are silent you go to the Standing Orders of the Parliament.
That law says use the drawing of lots.
You have the law. Use the law.
Why 15 seats when Tobago only has 51,062 votes?
The San Fernando City Corp has the similar amount of voters yet only has 8 local government seats.
Diego Martin has 89000 voters with only 10 seats.
You don’t want to break a tie. You want to break the democratic will of the people.
I stand firm that there is existing law again that provides a way on how to deal with this.
It is obvious again that the PNM will never allow Tobago to make their own decisions on what is best for Tobagonians because what is best for Tobagonians is not in the best interest of the PNM.
After fifty-plus years the PNM continue to fail the people of Tobago and Rowley himself a Tobagonian by birth is the ultimate disappointment for the people of Tobago.
When they may have thought he as a Tobagonian would finally give them the autonomy that they want, he came behind their back to deceive them for his own political reasons.
The United National Congress stands with all law abiding citizens. We acknowledge the efforts of the hard working members of the TTPS who put their lives on the line, with limited resources to keep our country safe.
Every citizen is entitled to due process. You are innocent until proven guilty.
I will fight for your rights. I will fight for you.
SPEAKING NOTES OF
THE HONOURABLE KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC, MP
POLITICAL LEADER OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
UNC VIRTUAL REPORT
15TH FEBRUARY 2021