Power-sharing in THA illegal, risky—George
Attorney Martin George says Tobagonians are now ensnared in a local version of Game of Thrones, as the proposal to share control of the Tobago House of Assembly is illegal and will never work.
Basing his opinion on the nature of local politics and history, George said he believes members of both parties will operate with a metaphoric “hidden sword” anxiously waiting for an opportunity to outperform or show up the other party.
However, Progressive Democratic Party deputy leader Farley Augustine says they are willing to take the chance as it puts Tobago first.
George applauded the efforts of the PDP to offer a solution to the current impasse but described the proposal as a “backyard marriage” and a “trap” by the Government, as there are no provisions in law for a THA that is run by more than one party.
“When one looks at the law and the legislation, there is absolutely no provision within the law for any power-sharing arrangement, so you are actually being suckered into chasing down a rabbit hole in this; you will end up like Alice in Wonderland,” George told Guardian Media.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley met with the members of both the PDP and People’s National Movement in Tobago on Wednesday and both parties agreed to consider sharing leadership of the THA in the interim.
The PDP proposed that the PNM fill the positions of Chief Secretary and Presiding Officer, while PDP members fill the positions of Deputy Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary, with all the other secretarial positions shared equally. However, the PDP proposed that the arrangement be put in place until the Tobago Autonomy Bill is passed.
But George made it clear this arrangement was contrary to existing law.
“I have constantly advocated that there must be strict adherence to the law and the legal provisions on the statute books,” he said.
Aside from being illegal, a power-sharing arrangement is completely reliant on trust among both parties which, he said, is “nalve and altruistic” as Trinidad and Tobago politics is contentious and oppositional by nature.
“If you reflect on the relationship by Dr Eric Williams and Dr Rudrinath Capildeo, they were not able to work together. If you look at Basdeo Panday and ANR Robinson, they started out as One Love and how long did it last – as soon as they got into power the love went out the door.”
George said a power-sharing arrangement will leave the THA open to legal action by any citizen, as “due to the lack of legal basis, any citizen will be able to challenge it and have it struck down in court as an illegal arrangement.”
He also warned the PDP against “being suckered into an illegal arrangement” that is a trap because “if there was any genuine desire by the Government to have their working solution, they would have done so before going to parliament to change the act.”
Addressing the issue on CNC3 yesterday, however, Augustine said there is absolutely nothing illegal in what is being proposed.
“The THA Act empowers the elected 12 to begin the process of forming the Executive Council. The THA Act allows for coalitions to happen, which is simply what this proposed amalgamation will be. There is no attempt to create two executive councils but one Tobago United Executive Council.”
He said once again, the PDP will put their own political ambitions aside and put Tobago first, as the arrangement places the party in a vulnerable position.
“We stand to lose more should the PNM not honour its end of the bargain, a PNM Chief Secretary can turn around and fire all the PDP secretaries for example.”
Augustine added that the PDP is expressing good faith in people they “have little reason to express good faith in.”
However, he said the PDP is willing to take the risk and put people of Tobago first.
by Loyse Vincent