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Dear Editor: Unfair treatment between residents of Trinidad and Tobago cuts both ways

“[…] Tobagonians are free to apply for HDC housing in Trinidad. However, no Trinidadian can ever apply for housing in Tobago under the THA as constituted, not even if you are of Tobagonian parentage. As a consequence, several Tobagonians are the proud owners of houses in Tobago as well as Trinidad. This is patently unfair!

“The new THA and the Central Government must now work together to right this wrong…”

The following Letter to the Editor, which offers several examples of presumed unfair practices that disadvantage Trinidadians in the ‘sister isle’, was submitted to Wired868 by Yvette Davidson:

Photo: THA Chief Secretary and PDP deputy political leader Farley Augustine.

“We in Tobago look after our own,” a former chief secretary responded to me one day when I pointed out to him that, in many ways, Tobagonians want to eat their cake and have it too.

I recalled that response last week when I awoke to find that a new day had dawned and, after 21 years of domination by the Trinbagonian PNM, the Tobago House of Assembly was now securely in the hands of the PDP, the Progressive Democratic Patriots, an indisputably Tobagonian party.

A born Trinbagonian of Tobago parentage, I am very hopeful that the new THA will address a few of the long-standing, egregious disparities that have existed under former THA administrations. Of course, the norm is to conveniently recognise Trinidad and Tobago as one country and highlight the ways in which the ‘sister isle’ is badly served.

I submit, however, that the following anomalies also bear highlighting:

Tobagonians are generally resentful of the rare Trinidadians who succeed in gaining employment with the THA.

However, I am not aware that the same can be said when Tobagonians find employment in Trinidad. I can think of several Tobagonians (Hart Edwards, Carol Keller, Reginald Dumas), who occupied senior positions in Trinidad, but I cannot recall any one of them ever decrying the treatment meted out to him by subordinates in Trinidad or even reporting being treated the way my Trinidadian friends have been treated in the ‘sister-isle’.

Photo: Former Public Service head and Ambassador to Washington, Reginald Dumas.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Tobagonians are free to apply for HDC housing in Trinidad. However, no Trinidadian can ever apply for housing in Tobago under the THA as constituted, not even if you are of Tobagonian parentage. As a consequence, several Tobagonians are the proud owners of houses in Tobago as well as Trinidad. This is patently unfair! The new THA and the Central Government must now work together to right this wrong.

By linking databases, cross-checking or cross-referencing applications, they must work together to ensure that Trinidadians are no longer disadvantaged by this policy. The current Property Tax-related valuation exercise under way might prove to be a useful tool in this effort.

Tobagonians are aggrieved that none of the EU funds intended to address the housing problem in T&T reached the THA. However, given the existing policy position as set out above, it should be no surprise. However, if Tobago is not to continue to be short-changed in the future, the current housing policy will have to change.

Tobagonians get two bites of a T&T cherry while Trinidadians are debarred from accessing the Tobago equivalent of the same cherry. Under the current arrangements, Trinidadians may not seek financial assistance for tertiary education from the THA. Tobagonians, however, are not so constrained. They are free to apply for assistance in Trinidad as well as in Tobago.

Photo: Signal Hill Secondary goal scorer Justice Williams (right) celebrates his winning strike in style during Big 5 action against Arima North on the Arima Old Road on 2 November 2019.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/CA-Images/Wired868)

It is past time that the Central Government insist that persons receiving financial aid from the THA may not also be granted a share of the limited resources available to many, many more Trinidadians.

Neither the run-up to the January 2021 elections nor the run-up to the December 2021 elections nor the intervening months have provided me with enough information to make a measured judgement. If, however, Mr Farley Augustine, Mr Watson Solomon Duke and their freshly elected THA colleagues share the kind of Tobago-centric thinking of the newly appointed Chief Secretary’s predecessor, I would like to issue a strong reminder to the Central Government: one hand cyar clap!

My recommendation is that the THA be given a proportion of the National Income commensurate with its resident population—not including those not born on the island and not therefore qualifying as ‘our own’—and commensurate with the island’s contribution to GDP.

Should Messrs Augustine and Duke and co raise an objection, I think it is only fair for us to grant them all Mr Duke’s dearest wish: secession!

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8 comments

  1. Most HDC apartments are rentals. HDC neglects these with regard to repair and servicing, thus, many are in really deplorable conditions with tenants still living in them.

  2. Is Watson Duke duly appointed as a Secretary by the President? Even though he swore allegiance to Tobago and Trinidad? Where is that country? Did someone at the Presidents office drop the ball? Must we allow this unpatriotic act to pass as acceptable at such an important event in the history of our country?

    • There is no country officially named Tobago & Trinidad. As a consequence, Duke’s appointment is null & void. FULL STOP!

      As usual, we let little things slide and this unwittingly sets the stage for slippage of bigger things……then we ponder and wonder what happened!

  3. My sentiments exactly!

  4. On the mark, Yvette. As JFK told his Soviet counterpart – so what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is yours? That has always been the Tobago position.

  5. This is so true and relevant!

    The time is long past when the patently offensive and blatant discrimination in favour of Tobagonians can be carried on.

    If we are truly one country, it cannot be that one little piece of the population–the Tobago people–can be dictating to the vast majority of the nation. There may be 50,000 Tobagonians in Tobago, but there are 1,350,000 Trinidadians and the 50k people cannot be favored against the 1.350k.

    Enough is enough…
    Time for Trinidadian people to call for equal treatment!

    Maybe it’s time for Trinidad to seek independence from Tobago.

  6. The population of Arima and environs is approximately eighty thousand persons, divided between the Arima Borough Corporation and the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation. Both entities lack an independent financial base and are underfunded. But the residents have no special claim on the national purse even while they contribute to said purse. Unlike the residents of “the sister isle” who claim ever more.