Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says he is prepared to convince Parliament to support and pass the Tobago Autonomy Bill, following President Christine Kangaloo’s call for autonomy for the island.
Speaking to the media after a short event for the President’s inaugural visit on Wednesday morning, Augustine said he was pleasantly shocked by Kangaloo’s bold statements.
He said the next move is to persuade the Government of the benefits of giving Tobago autonomy.
“I am willing to try. The island’s government is willing to try to convince the entire Parliament, all 41 elected members or members of the Senate, including the Independent Senators, that having greater autonomy for Tobago is the way to go to perfect the relationship that is Trinidad and Tobago.
“I was elated to hear who posits such strong support for greater autonomy for Tobago. I was surprised at how much of homework that she did, and research that she did. It was actually quite thrilling. To hear her quote from lead president, His Excellency Mr (ANR) Robinson, from his motion to move for international government,” Augustine said.
He added, “Being able to so clearly articulate that Trinidad, Tobago needs to treat with this, I think is not just a good sign ... but it’s also indicative of the fact that many people who are not Tobagonians are coming around to appreciating what needs to be done. Because the matter of greater autonomy for Tobago is not so much about putting Tobago against Trinidad, but it’s about empowering Tobagonians to have command over their own space.”
The Chief Secretary said the people of Tobago want to see some changes made to the proposed legislation.
“And once there is a bill that the people of Tobago wants, because the challenge with what is there is that there are some changes that the people of Tobago will like to see. And it did not totally reflect the bill that was sent down by former chief secretary Mr (Orville) London and Tobago House of Assembly then. But, once we can get what is there amended, edited to the point where it reflects the wishes of the people of Tobago, certainly I think as a THA, the responsible thing to do will be to move the advocacy from not just the Government or the majority side in the Parliament, but also to the Opposition side in the Parliament,” he explained.