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Dear Editor: Is the PNM improperly manipulating the THA’s membership?

“If my understanding is correct, and the Act provides for the election of three councillors by ‘secondary elections’ via secret ballot by existing members of the THA, I am left to wonder at Mrs Tracy Celestine-Davidson’s reported assertion to the press that she ‘will become one of those councillors with effect from the first working day in March 2020’.

[…] Dr Rowley appears to be manipulating the membership of the THA to the exclusion of those who ought to have the first say regarding who may or may not sit as assemblymen: the Tobago electorate.”

The following Letter to the Editor questioning the legitimacy of recently announced changes in the Tobago House of Assembly was submitted to Wired868 by Steve Smith:

Photo: Outgoing THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles (via trinidadexpress.com)

I am baffled about what looks as though the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is being treated as another PNM party group. The THA is certainly not a PNM party group.

The Trinidad Express reported that Mr Kelvin Charles will resign as chief secretary of the THA, ‘while the new political leader of the Tobago PNM council’ is to be ‘installed as a councillor’.

Mr Charles’ resignation followed a meeting held with the prime minister in Tobago last weekend. Mr Charles reportedly stated at a press conference that he ‘will be stepping down’ at the end of April 2020 and that ‘Mrs Tracy Davidson-Celestine will come on board on the first of March as a councillor.’

As if all of that was not enough, Mrs Davidson-Celestine, who now heads the PNM Tobago council—and who technically has nothing to do with the affairs of the THA at this time—told the media that a ‘new THA chief secretary is to be elected’. Mrs Davidson-Celestine seems to be arrogating to herself a role that is reserved for the president of the Republic.

Section 17 (2) of the THA Act No. 37 of 1980 allows for the resignation of the chairman (chief secretary) ‘by letter addressed to the clerk’. Meanwhile, Section 17 (5) outlines the role of the president of the Republic who would ‘either issue a writ addressed to the returning officer of the appropriate electoral area for the holding of a primary election for the election of a new assemblyman or advise the chairman that a secondary election for the election of a councillor be held.’

If my understanding is correct, and the Act provides for the election of three councillors by ‘secondary elections’ via secret ballot by existing members of the THA, I am left to wonder at Mrs Tracy Celestine-Davidson’s reported assertion to the press that she ‘will become one of those councillors with effect from the first working day in March 2020’.

Photo: Political leader of PNM Tobago Council. (via looptt.com)

Certainly, such an assertion conveys the impression that the THA can be manipulated by the PNM party.

Finally, Mr Charles reportedly himself asserted that following his ‘resignation’ he will remain as the assemblyman for Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden for now and would ‘gracefully return to his former Black Rock home after he demits office as chief secretary in April’.

All of this leaves me with an uneasy feeling that the present PNM administration is acting ultra vires. Dr Rowley appears to be manipulating the membership of the THA to the exclusion of those who ought to have the first say regarding who may or may not sit as assemblymen: the Tobago electorate.

The people of Black Rock elected Mr Charles, who enjoyed the confidence of ‘a majority’ of his fellow assemblymen—PNM and non-PNM—to the extent that he was elevated to the chair of the chief secretary. The THA is a statutory body that enjoys constitutional protection.

So how and why is this body suddenly being treated as a PNM Party group by a prime minister whose authority to do this is questionable, and all of this is being done with the conspicuous exclusion of the president?

Can someone clarify this apparent breach of the law?

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2 comments

  1. It appears to me that some Tobagonians including Ambassador Tracy Celestine-Davidson are more concerned with post-hopping and prestige conscious rather than serving in whatever capacity one is appointed to. Mrs Celestine -Davidson was our Ambassador to Costa Rica and ought to have completed her diplomatic assignment ther on behalf of the people of T&T but lo and behold she wants become the Leader of the Tobago Council of the PNM, then a Councillor and eventually the THA Chief Secretary leaving her assignment in Costa Rica in animated suspension hanging in thin air. These people are political opportunists who will go where the grass is greener at the slightest inducement of position and prestige.
    Look lady finish your assignment of a Plenipotentiary Ambassador in Costa Rica and then seek other fields of endeavour. You are doing this frog-hopping with the full support of your Prime Minister who ought to know better and not demonstrate his power and glory in Tobago for hius whims and fancies. Poor Charles built a palace that Celestine-Davidson now covets as an emerging tin goddess.

  2. This is the grey area more of the media need to delve into. The amount of power the party is exerting over the institution of the Tobago House of Assembly is frightening. Also, a press conference where the announcement is being made that the Chief Secretary will demit office should not have been in the PNM office.