“[…] 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:
“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’.
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.
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!