14th – 19th Centuries
Trinidad, “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1498 was to pass under the governance of the Spanish, French and English with full power ceded to the British in the eighteenth century.
1879: British House of Commons considered the question of the future of Trinidad and Tobago and decided to reject a request by the resident planters for a bicameral legislature and internal self-government.
Crown Colony Government
The British decided to impose Crown Colony Government in which a resident Legislative Council under the authority of a Governor, could advise the British Government but had no effective control over the island, since British law reigned.
1880: Members of the single chamber Legislative Council were appointed by the Governor to represent the counties of Trinidad with one “unofficial Member” representing the Ward of Tobago.
1898: The membership of the Legislative Council was a total of 21: 11 – Unofficial and 10 – Official, including the Governor.
Tobago is amalgamated permanently with Trinidad
1921 – 1962
The emancipation of slaves, the ending of indentured labour and the discovery of oil in Trinidad all generated an increased population, demanding adult suffrage and ultimately, independence for Trinidad and Tobago.
1921: A Commission Franchise was established to investigate the preparedness of Trinidad and Tobago for self-government and recommended that a limited franchise of seven (7) members be appointed by the Governor. This lay the foundation for constitutional reform.
1952: The return of Dr. Eric Williams from abroad, heralded a vibrant era of party politics since he was encouraged to form a political party. On September 24, 1956 Dr. Williams’ party, the People’s National Movement, won 13 of the 24 seats on the Legislative Council. After detailed discussions with the Legislative Council, the Colonial Office decided to grant cabinet government to Trinidad and Tobago. Thus, the first Cabinet was formed with Dr. Williams as Premier.
1961: A Federation of the West Indian islands was formed in 1958 but when Jamaica withdrew in 1961, Trinidad and Tobago decided that it was time to receive full independence so that it could pursue its own governance.
1962: Independence talks took place between Trinidad and Tobago and Britain, the result of which was full independence, celebrated on August 31, 1962.
Until 1961, the legislature was unicameral, but with independence came the recommendation for the creation of a bicameral legislature, comprising a Senate and an elected House of Representatives.
On Friday December 29th, 1961 the House of Representatives and the Senate sat for the first time in the history of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago is bicameral, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Parliament as a whole is charged with certain responsibilities and is given special powers and privileges in order to effectively carry out its functions. Included among the latter are freedom of speech in Parliament, the authority to regulate its business by Standing Orders, as well as the freedom from civil or criminal proceedings for words spoken or written by Members before their respective House and in Committee.
Extracted From: Parliament the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago